I Can’t Believe I’m In Africa

Catherine Vaught University of Cape Town, South Africa


February 8, 2016

I still wake up every morning and think to myself, “I can’t believe I’m in Africa.” The view from my bedroom window could easily be mistaken for Florida with its towering palm trees and hibiscus flowers. But step outside the gate of our historic house, and Africa is everywhere. From the Table Mountain backdrop to the produce markets and nonstop taxi honking, the neighborhood of Mowbray is always bustling. While walking down the sidewalk, it isn’t uncommon to hear taxi drivers yell names of destinations such as, “Cape Town!” or “Rondebosch!” as they whip open their doors for new passengers. Trust me, it makes American roads seem boring as ever.

My favorite thing about Cape Town is the different places a 15-minute drive can take you. In one direction, you’re in the heart of the city. Drive a little further and you’re right on the waterfront. Each neighborhood has its unique features and style. We’ve done quite a lot of exploring in a short week and a half. From waterfront dining (seafood!) to museum hopping, I’m slowly learning how to navigate the streets. The easiest way to get around has been by taxi and with the Rand (South Africa’s currency) being 16 to $1, fares are cheap to see the sights.

Aside from spending quality time within Cape Town’s neighborhoods, we also got the chance to explore other regions during our orientation. My favorite excursion was about two hours north of Cape Town at an overnight camp called High Africa. Because we were more inland, temperatures were well into the 100s. After leaving sub-zero temperatures in Minnesota, this was a complete reversal. Thankfully, several of the activities we did were on the water like kayaking, rafting and swimming. Other activities included rock climbing (with views of the mountains!) and a high ropes course (which I completed very nervously). We also had amazing, authentic South African food. One of my favorites was this traditional bread roll that they spread with butter and honey syrup. I think I may have found one of the foods I could eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

My first two weeks have been ones to remember, and it’s amazing how quickly I’ve felt acclimated to my surroundings. The days are long here with the sunrise around 5:45 and the sunset around 20:45 (look at me learning military time!), which means we can jam-pack our days with exploring. Classes don’t start for another weekend so the biggest question on my mind right now is, “What’s my next adventure?