Monday, April 20, 2009

Coming to Cape Town


So I’m here in cape town and it is 1 am… traveling has a way of making you contemplate your entire universe all over again. I arrived here exactly one week ago. I’m not sure what I expected… I had a feeling I would love this city, but at the same time I was heading for the first time on my own to a place I had never been before, and one that you don’t exactly hear is the safest place to bet on. Aside from the words ‘hectic’, ‘shame’ and ‘oh is it’, I’m constantly hearing the world ‘brave’… people telling me I’m so brave for coming here. Honestly, I never thought of it that way and I’m still not convinced. How am I brave? I’m experiencing a place where the rich and the poor coexist, perhaps not peacefully but more because they have to. The poor live in townships where they never experienced another life and are barely surviving in a literal sense. The rich are survivors themselves… things we take for granted in America… not having electric fences and barred doors and windows. Not worrying about beggars attacking you if you don’t pay them, or smashing through your car window at a stoplight to grab your purse, simply walking down the street without considering that you might get mugged, or being able to walk around after dark alone as female without fear that you might get raped. I bought my first can of pepper spray I might add! I’m not trying to be melodramatic and there are a few things you worry about in any city; also most of the people I have met have not actually been the victims of crimes such as these… but they are aware of it and do have to think about it--- something that has become second nature to them. And I’m brave for coming here? On basically a working vacation?

The only way you could possibly call me brave is if you look at my bank account. My mom updated me an hour ago… perhaps the reason why I can’t sleep anymore and am currently writing this…. To let me know that my current checking account amount resides at $142.40. I bought a load of photography equipment before coming here, the cost of which was deducted from my account today… along with my rent & deposit, never a fun feeling. I am getting paid here though… working as an intern for an agency called Cow Africa, a funky little creative boutique advertising shop. And I have to say I LOVE IT. I’ve spent the first week writing copy, brainstorming, and punking people all over town candid camera style, which has given me a scenic tour of the city. The people I work with are awesome as well… they end work early on Fridays to laugh, drink milkshakes and eat fries (chips  ) together. I feel as if I know them already.. it is kind of strange.

Strange in a good way, not at all in the sense I mean it when I say it’s quite strange that I have no money and am living in another country. The current rate of exchange is $1,000 rand = $100. And it seems no matter where you are the world, landlords suck. I found a beautiful room in a house, within walking distance of work that even has a backyard & hammock, albeit with an electric fence, which also includes a landlady doubling as a roommate. She’s a 39 yr old female having a full-on midlife crisis. The first day I checked out the place I moved in, as she has an obvious charm along with the house. We ate dinner that night and she and I talked happily and freely. The next day we got in a tustle over rent --- I’m paying $4,000 rand for a month---- which means I’m getting ripped off. But like I said, the house is cool, and so are the roommates--- 3 more actually, mostly other foreign interns getting ripped off as well .
Following this tustle we drank wine and talked again for hours where I realized that she has gotten screwed over quite a bit in her life. Dated a guy longterm whom she opened a business with, who did not include her as an owner in the business… then she was in legal battle with him for a few years, was pregnant with his baby and had a miscarriage… and then found out a few years later from her sister, that she slept with him. And not that I even need to add more to this story, but her sister’s wedding is in two weeks and she doesn’t have a date. So I don’t blame her for getting irritated and equally annoying at the drop of a dime… okay I do, sometimes “you are as miserable as you want to be.”- wise words from a coworker. I do give her credit though, South Africans have to be tough and she’s one of the tougher ones.

But that doesn’t quite help me now does it. I’m considering what I’m going to do after this month. Depending on how the internship goes or other interviews, I could stay here. I interviewed in Dubai before I arrived which means I could end up back there as well… which financially would be amazing--- but in many other ways would be quite tragic. I could also head to Australia, my parents seem to be a fan of this idea, maybe so they can visit, and my uncle has sent me some local currency hoping to jumpstart my journey to the outback where my cousin currently resides. And it all sounds lovely right? Being a struggling creative is not fun… is it too late for med school? I’m not gonna lie though, there is a certain beauty in not knowing the future, you truly begin to live day to day. And despite the fact that I’ve felt uncertain for quite a long while now, I’d still take feeling uncertain while traveling over the opposite any day.

Especially in Cape Town. This city is breathtakingly gorgeous. The beach, the mountains, the sunsets, the lights, the sky, the vibe, the music, the mish-mash of culture and architecture—it all works so well together. The first day I arrived I got a scenic view of the entire city bowl at night along side Table Mountain and a sky who’s sun had set but still held rich purples oranges and reds- making me feel as if I landed on another planet, a beautiful one. I also headed to a local bar/music venue called Rafikis, where the lead singer of a famous African band named Freshly Ground, was special guesting along side a few Brooklyn musicians. Everyone in the bar was dancing and grooving and I was surprised, in the best way possible, at how laidback the vibe was…as a national celebrity could be jamming so effortlessly and easily with the locals.

Music is not all that keeps people on their feet. The crime perhaps gives everyone a little jolt in their step, but the locals are in love with their own city as much as the foreigners and are experiencing as much as they can until perhaps they won’t be able to anymore. Zuma is about to be elected president in a few days. The current candidate of the ANC party- the same party Nelson Mandela belonged to, but there is no other similarity.

I have learned quite a bit here in my first week from some of the amazing people I have met, about race relations, language, politics, poverty, and the capacity of complete strangers to be completely accommodating half way around the world. I’ve laughed more this week than probably in past 6 months and I have 10 new facebook friends !…that’s more friends than days I’ve been here, which only validates my point.

Tomorrow morning I’m awaking bright and early to hike Table Mountain with a couchsurfer I haven’t met yet. Probably a pretty good start to the second week of my first month in Cape Town. And at this very moment, I’m having a hard time imagining this is real. I’ve gotten carried away typing on my old familiar laptop… only to finally look up and realize that it is in fact the middle of the night, in a new country, where I now know some people….and I’m okay... I think.


Ashley said...

EEEK!!! I'm excited for you! What amazing life lessons you are learning! Just be sure to always be aware and take care of yourself!

Anonymous said...

i found your blog through the austin youtube video! haha, I live in austin....anyways, there's alot i can relate to your post, very thoughtful, and if your ever online to chat:

aim: mac1s1

or email

: )

gluck with your adventurers and im all for the australia idea! haha, i was just there recently

anu said...

not on aim unfortunately, but thanks so much for the well wishes :) had fun in australia?