Scheduled Blackouts

Tessa Rendina University of Cape Town, South Africa


February 24, 2020
Currently Studying At: University of Cape Town, South Africa
Homeschool: Susquehanna University

Only three weeks in Cape Town, and it's been a whirlwind! I hiked Table Mountain, surfed in Muizenberg, climbed rocks at Llandudno Beach, saw zebras and ostriches, explored Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, and navigated orientation and class sign-ups. I am bursting with information to share, but for now, I will stick with ways to adjust to Cape Town.

What is Load Shedding?

After a beautiful day of petting dogs, exploring big rocks, and swimming at Clifton Beach my program members and I Ubered to Camps Bay to grab dinner. Load Shedding was scheduled to begin at 20:00 at our residence in Rosebank. We figured we’d stay out at dinner for a few hours to miss it. From the balcony of a seafood restaurant, we watched the sunset over the Atlantic. As it started to get dark around 19:50, candles were lit and food was finished. Ten minutes later the lights went out and it was not to create a romantic ambiance.

Unfortunately, Camps Bay was scheduled for the same load shedding time as our zone in Rosebank. Despite no power and no generator, business went on as usual. Load shedding is a scheduled blackout to conserve energy. Different zones will be on a different level and the levels will change throughout the month. The power will be out in a zone for about two hours; once, twice, or three times a day. Below are some ways to prepare: 

  • Download the app EskomSePush to be notified when load shedding is expected to occur. 
  • Keep devices charged especially charge a portable charger.  
  • Do not get into an elevator even if load shedding was supposed to start at 8, and it’s an hour later, and it hasn’t begun yet. I may have accidentally entered an elevator on campus just as load shedding started at 9 and got stuck. The first week of classes was a learning experience for sure. 
  • Bring rand if you're going out to eat, in case the card readers are affected by load shedding.
  • Be careful crossing the street on major roads, since the traffic lights will be out too.
  • If you really need to shower, you're out of luck. There will be very little or no running water.
  • Prepare your day accordingly. If you need to be on your phone or laptop during load shedding on campus, buy data or create a hotspot. The eduroam Wi-Fi goes out during load shedding. Be aware that some places on campus might not have service either.  

What Else to Look out For:

Southern Africa is currently facing a drought and has been for the past couple of years. Respect the region's effort in conserving water. Take two-minute showers. Do not leave the water running while brushing your teeth. Do only full loads of laundry. Etc.

Safety is another big aspect of living in Cape Town. In any major and unfamiliar city, it’s important to be alert and travel with a buddy. The times I do walk alone to the grocery store, the Jammie stop, or soccer practice I keep my phone in my bag and know my route ahead of time. I try to only use the ATMs on campus and inside of the mall as well. Our nights spent on Long Street are always in a group, and we all make sure we get home all together. This is not to discourage anyone. Just be aware of your surroundings, and don't leave your belongings unattended.

During the first two weeks, you’ll find yourself waiting in line quite a bit. Not everyone is privileged to have a computer or internet access at home. Student card registration, signing up for classes, adding or dropping a class is all done in person and not online. A lot of the friends I made so far, I met while waiting in a line to add a Poverty Development and Globalism course or to sign up for the African Music 1 class. Even the “boring” moments can be fun! You’ll find many of the other students are looking to make friends too. 

As our program Resident Director, Dr. Brittani Smit says, “It's not difficult, just different!” and no words could be truer! You’re here to experience new, incredible things! Adjust to the space around you and appreciate where you are. It's not too hard in a city as beautiful and enriching as this one.

Stay tuned to learn about popular places, cool activities, and good food in Cape Town!