Well, nothing gets me used to the idea of returning to Oregon in the dead of winter than a storm in Cape Town! The Cape Doctor blew through with 40 mph winds and sideways rain this week. Knocked out some power, blew the water tank of my office's roof (onto our bench!), and knocked out the supports to a construction project next to our KwikSpar in Obs, sending the whole first floor toppling onto someone's car. It's calming down a bit today, thank God, but it's still pretty darn cold for summer (50 degrees!). I'm glad the wind is dying especially; the sound, I think, has been giving me the craziest nightmares! (To be fair, I think one of them was "World War Z" coming back to haunt me. Zombies!)
I'm currently on my first day at my new/temporary job at a production company called The Farm. I mentioned last entry that my co-workers were considering setting me up with a job shadow at the place with the Pepsi Max job? Well, I'm here! Ross drove me over to visit yesterday, and they asked if I could come in and get started this morning. I have to catch a minibus into a different part of town, but it's a pretty nice office -- big, bustling... heated. Everyone has been incredibly good to me so far -- Charlie, Gail, Sarah, Peter, Marinanni, and so on. I miss Stillking, but I'll be back in a week and a half or so, I'm sure. And The Farm put me to work quite promptly, which I loved, writing letters demanding confirmation on a car needed for our shoot next week. I'm looking forward to taking a lot of photos and finally maybe getting my hands dirty!
They are allegedly serving us lunch soon. I am more excited than words can properly express. Free lunch: an awesome bonus of the film industry.
Oh, and this place is situated over a KFC. KFC is everywhere in South Africa - biggest fast food chain in the country. Fried chicken smell just wafted up. Hrrrugh.
Let's see, when did I last update? Before Halloween? Well, Halloween was lots of fun. As I mentioned, I was Nancy Drew, and I looked pretty adorable, if I do say so myself... even if no one could quite figure who I was. ("SEXY SHERLOCK HOLMES?!" … Close enough.) We went to a house party in Mowbrey that was and will probably forever remain the largest house party I've ever seen. Hundreds of people! My choice of cheap rubber heels was a good choice, as I came out of that nasty, nasty house with a serious case of trench foot (or as I believe Kate so aptly referred to it, "frat foot") from the various substances pooling on the kitchen floor. There was seriously a guy bleeding on their dishes at one point. Not fake blood. Anyway though, it was a cool party, and everyone was dressed up, even guys (shocking!), and not a skanky costumes to be seen! (Good job, ladies of the world!) We eventually all got kicked out (Alleged Reason #1: Several laptops were promptly stolen; Alleged Reason #2: Someone got stabbed), and even then, I was frankly impressed at how politely all 200-300 queued up and filed out into the street. I love South Africa. So we headed over to a reggae-themed bar in Obs called Roots, eventually ended the night, all was well.
Prior to the Halloween festivities, I took off early from work and hopped a ride with Rafa and Wesley to Long Beach to finish my dive course. One relatively easy final dive, and I was certified! (Oh, except the written test the next day, which I passed.) Long Beach is the kind of dive location were you just walk on into the water, which is laboring but not TOO hard... The difficulty, for me, is getting out. You know, wet, tired, off-balance, heavily weighted on your back and with an unstable surface below you, waves knocking you back over each time you manage to get up... I pretty much beached trying to get my fins off. Could not for the life of me get up. Had to be saved from ultimate, completely pathetic death-by-drowning by Wes. Again. Ho-hum!
So now I'm PADI Open Water certified, and I got an obscenely good deal from Sean on diving (R1100 for 5-6 dives with full equipment!), so I did my first "fun dives" this last Sunday at Hout Bay. Went to Whale Wall first, which had no whales but a lot of stones and barnacles and crabs, and got some valuable practice being smashed repeatedly against/under rocks by a heavy current. Plus, my regulator gauge was not working, which meant that I couldn't tell how much air I had. Tried to communicate that my dive master underwater, but she misunderstood. There was some mini-crisis at the end where she was breathing off our third's alternate air source, so I decided not to complain about shortness of breath - we were only, oh, three metres down anyway - but it was a little freaky, not knowing how close to nothing I had.
Next dive was at Duikar Island again, but we managed to get lost in the water and go totally away from the island and its beloved seals. That cued some hard swimming through the kelp forests to get back on course, and we were rewarded with the sight of a couple curious-eyed, dive-bombing seals before surfaced. Really, really cold water though. I've been told that once you dive in Cape Town, you can pretty much bear diving anywhere, so I look forward to actual warm waters someday.
Let's see, what else? Food, food, food. I need to try some new restaurants! Made my first curry this week, and it turned out fabulously! I was really impressed with myself. Needed a bit more tinkering maybe, but it was great and really versatile - I'll be making it again. Found that Touch of Madness' amazing milkshakes are only R9.50 (under $1USD!). Discovered a really locals-only karaoke place in Pinelands and went there last night, too.
Finally, the election.
I am so proud. Some mistakes were made (banning gay marriage in Cali and Arizona, for example, and, most infuriatingly, banning unmarried or gay couples from adopting in Arkansas), but overall, the elections left me warm and fuzzy and - finally, finally - proud to be an American.
President Obama. President-elect Obama. There are just... no words. I don't know that I could appreciate the enormity, the complete and utter hugeness, of his election without being abroad, particularly in Africa. I mean, yeah, Obama is change, Obama is hope, Obama is handsome and likable and black and has a lovely family and great policies... But from I can see, the most important thing is that Obama isn't just for us - he's for the world. His election inspired a lot of hope where hope isn't exactly common. Beyond the obvious Kenya connection, black South Africans, from what I can tell, are really personally invested in Obama's success because it gives them an example of something the world literally has never seen before: a black man at the very, very, very top.
On the train today, my attention was peaked when I overheard some black South African professionals discussing the American election on the train. By all means, these guys appeared pretty successful - well-employed and well-dressed - but one of the men said something that surprised me, at first: he said that he hoped someday he could escape to America, because there, anyone can make it to the top - even a black man could be be the leader of the free world now. And I was actually inclined to roll my eyes at what a trite sentiment that was until I really thought about it -- and I thought, it's amazing that people still believe that about us when actual Americans haven't seen it like that in a long time. We all feel so stepped on by The Man, but it's true: even in our lowest moments as a country (and we have had so many in the last eight years), we are so fortunate. Class separation in the U.S. is not nearly as rigid as it is in so many other cultures. We have endless opportunities from birth, and other countries are so inspired by that. The example America sets is still really important to the rest of the world, even when they're so frustrated with us as a political and global entity. And I'm proud that after a long hiatus, we've started setting good examples again.