10 Days 10 Things

Remy Bessolo University of Cape Town, South Africa


June 8, 2015


When did we get to less than 10 days? This is ridiculous. It’s hard to come to terms with leaving this beautiful place, but I am excited to see my family and friends (and Chipotle). Although I have been here for over 4 months, there are still elements of South African life that I haven’t gotten used to. Some are negative, some positive, but they are all responsible for leaving me with some of the best laughs and memories.

Without further ado, here is my list of 10 Things I’m Still Not Used To: South Africa Edition:

  1. Jammie Steps
    The infamous Jammie Steps. While it may have looked majestic walking up to Jameson Hall and the center of Upper Campus every day for class, it was no task for the faint of heart. Those colossal steps were quite the mission. The first ascent was hard, but we confidently told ourselves that we’d be “masters of the steps” by the end of the term, practically running up without breaking a sweat. False. So very false. We are still feeling the burn, still usually out of breath by the time we reach the top. Although they may have been a deciding factor in going (or not going, rather) to some of my optional lectures, I’ve never laughed so hard going up those stairs on late night adventures with friends or morning struggles. I’ll also be prepared for my entirely flat walk to school that awaits me next semester. (p.s. the picture only shows half of the struggle.)
  2. Eskom
    Oh Eskom. As the largest producer of electricity in South Africa, they are dealing with an electricity crisis. This results in lovely episodes of “load-shedding” or complete power outages in certain areas of the country at different times of the day. Fun fact, you never really know when it will actually happen. The schedule could say 4-6:30. Will it happen or not? Guessing games of life in SA. It could even happen out of the blue. Yay. While this can cause several inconveniences in the cooking or wi-fi arena, it has also created a space for us students to detach ourselves from most technology and have fun together. My favorite memory associated with load-shedding had to be the load-shedding parties that included face masks and music, and sometimes previously loaded movies. Amazing laughs here too.
  3. Just Now, Now Now, and Now
    The South African slang is incredibly easy to pick up, but the concept of time frames has yet to settle with me. Having asked around, this was the general consensus: “just now” could be in the next few minutes, 20 minutes or immediately. “Now now” could mean immediately or in the next several minutes to half an hour. And “now” essentially means someone might get around to it eventually or never. But then again I was given answers that contradict all previous data. So this is still a mystery. Ambiguity all over the place.
  4. The Right Side of the Road
    Coming from the states, this still messes with my head. Even after so long, I’ll still have small heart attacks when I’m in any vehicle because for a split second, it feels like we’re driving in to oncoming traffic. I can’t say anything particularly fabulous has come of this, but it has been the source of some laughs, mainly at my irrational fears.
  5. The 180
    This is something I have already addressed in a previous post, so if you’re interested in reading more about it, check that out. This is simply the shocking difference between certain areas of the city that are not far apart. South Africa has one of the biggest gaps between the rich and poor, and it makes absolutely zero sense when you see it directly. How can I go from Camps Bay or UCT campus, both beautifully maintained and full of wealth, and drive 15-30 minutes to end up in the Khayelitsha or Nyanga townships where people are struggling to pay for food and water? While I might be used to seeing the differences, I am most certainly not used to the way it makes me feel. It can make someone feel anger, sadness, and confusion. It blows my mind to see how different the lives of two Capetonians can really be.
  6. The Mountain(s)
    I do spend a lot of time outside, and I love being in nature. One would think you’d get used to the beauty of the country. Again, false. Every time I look at the trio of mountains (Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain, Lion’s Head), it’s as if I’m seeing them for the first time. Like a kid in a candy shop who forgets what the shop looks like every time they leave, and they get to come back every day. It’s just so majestic. If I could pick them up and bring them home with me I would, because they keep a sense of wonder, awe, and adventure in everyone here.
  7. Rand to Dollar
    The exchange rate as I’m writing this is currently 12.29 SA rand to 1 US dollar. Comparing prices here to prices at home is unbelievable. For a tall hot coffee at home, I’d be paying $1.75 or 22 rand. I can get the same thing here for 9 rand, which is only 73 cents. A dollar off coffee might not seem like much, but for a coffee addict like me, this is crucial. Everything is cheaper here, and it still shocks me everyday. I bought a decent watch for $3. Three whole dollars. I had to ask the cashier to repeat the price twice because I didn’t believe what I was hearing. Planning an all-inclusive 3 day road trip with several activities comes to around $150. That’s with everything, including car rental, gas, hostels, activities, and food. At home, $150 might get you a hotel room for 3 nights and some snacks. Paying for life at home won’t be super fun.
  8. Born with the Groove
    As a dancer, it can be frustrating when your jam is on and no one else wants to dance. However, almost everyone in the country that I have come across in any musical setting has a natural talent for dance. It’s like they were all born with an innate sense of rhythm and musicality. This being said, it comes as the best surprise when a song drops and everyone on the dance floor jumps into a groove so flawless it could have been choreographed. There is a sense of togetherness and natural energy in dance here. It’s one of my favorite parts about living in Cape Town, and something I will miss immensely. It still surprises me that I can find this feeling, as well as a dance circle almost anywhere I go, as long as the beats are bumping.
  9. Public Transport
    While I may have gotten used to not driving myself everywhere I go, I still have not gotten used to the public transport of the city. Each minibus brings a new style or tactic, and the train stations can be slightly confusing. No minibus experience is the same, and the train schedule can be right or wrong, with unannounced transfers or changes. Not many people from my program attempted to figure out how the city buses were used, most likely due to the convenience of the minibus. Another mystery that falls under the ambiguity umbrella of SA life.
  10. Laissez-faire
    While it has been spectacular enjoying the laissez-faire attitude of the country (a nice change from the tight schedule obsession in the states), I’m not entirely acquainted with the ambiguity that comes with it. When certain tasks need to be done by a certain time, it can be slightly unnerving to just have everything up in the air. Plans can be cancelled as quickly as they are made and vice versa. However, going with the flow has led to the most unforgettable escapades around town, with the memories and stories to match.

My last few days will be full of adventure and emotion, rain or shine (I underestimated the power of the Mother City’s winter rains).

Thanks for reading! :)

Salani Kakuhle!


South Africa