Johannesburg, South Africa
My first week in Cape Town (CT) was quite different from my expectations. I felt as though this would be a breakthrough both personally and academically. However – in typical ‘Victor’ fashion – it wasn’t. So upon my arrival at CPT (i.e. Cape Town’s International Airport), it was greeted by vastness, as my flight was the only expected for hours. Stupidly, I walked into the customs and wound up with a R600 fine due to unmentionable ‘Duty Free’ purchases. Overwhelmed with a plethora of emotions, I collected my bags and headed to the greeting area. I was greeted by a very kind Asian (South African term for a South Asian). Over the course of our ride he shared stories about his addiction to underground street racing; I guess you could say we bonded.
Upon my arrival at Perspectives (i.e. my luxury high-rise apartment complex riddled with expats), I was greeted by blank stares from the lounging [more established] residents. Over the next 5 minutes I was herded into the complex’s coffee shop. I was repeatedly told that the date of my arrival was the busiest of the season for Connect-123. An orientation setting was held with individuals who would unbeknownst become my closest friends to date. Although it [now] all seems a blur, I wound up at a pub around the corner with a couple dozen other interns.
The next day, I took delivery of my “hire car.” It was a white VW Polo Playa. I called up my new friend Kate, and we hurried off in the direction of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront (i.e. South Africa’s premier shopping centre). It was quite an adventure, as we continuously found ourselves getting lost in a “scary” country; we arrived in one piece. My American accent proved quite useful, as Kate and I had salespeople treating us with a level of admiration usually reserved for those adhering the L. Ron Hubbard’s cult. CT’s high levels of development marveled me. I know this is by far is not a politically correct statement, yet it really is true! Interestingly, we bought our groceries at a high-end department store and returned home. For legal purposes – no joke – things ensued, and culminated in the incident known as either the “Case of the Headlamp Thief of Kloef Street,” or simply put the “hit-and-run.” Consequently, my car had been wreck within hours of its delivery.
Day three marked President Zuma’s first parliamentary address as South Africa’s President. This coincided with the delivery of my replacement car, which was identical to the former VW Polo Playa. I spent the majority of the day in a neighboring Police Station filling out paperwork, and struggling to convey my statement in broken Afrikaans. OH! I should mention that CT is the most white city I’ve yet to visit. Everyone speaks my beloved Afrikaans.
Somewhere during the week, I ended up in the Stellenbosch (exurban region, known for its vineyards) for a GlasKas concert in a converted barn. I was quite disappointed as none of my hire cars came with the requested navigation systems. So again, it took us 2 hours to reach a destination that should have taken no more than 45 minutes. The concert was also a let down. To say the least I won’t be buying their new album. After departing the rural venue, we wound up on Long Street – which bears striking resemblances to Bourbon Street in New Orleans. The three of us – Scott, Jeff, and myself – nearly fell victim to the crimes that plague South African travel guides…
My first weekend in CT was spent in the Robertson Valley – approximately 130 miles from CT. Here the majority of the 120 interns participated in the annual “Wacky Wine Festival.” To my dismay I found a wine I enjoyed, and “Yes Gaby, it was very sweet!” The festival culminated in a live concert on a vineyard, and drunken young Americans running amuck alongside “Bohemian Bourgeois” Afrikaners. Upon my return (i.e. Sunday morning) I started my first day of work, which called me to Johannesburg for a weeklong conference.
TO BE CONTINUED…