Week 1: Getting Settled

It is now the weekend of my first week here in Cape Town. There have been quite a few ups and downs getting settled in my new city. Overall it has been an amazing week, however, it is definitely important to make sure everything is all lined up when you are living somewhere else for an extended period of time.

Some of the things I wish would have gone smoother included: getting a South African phone, feeding myself, sleep, and Uber. On my first full day here I had orientation, when I should have got a phone set up. I was planning on using a burner phone. Well I did not end up getting my phone until the second day and ran out of time to set it up with my internship coordinators. Long story short, the burner phone was so slow and incapable of working to order Uber and use WhatsApp. The two things I bought it to use. So that means putting the SIM card into my US phone, not a biggie, a little frustrating but not the end of the world. Uber has been the bane of my existence this week. Because it did not work on my burner phone I was almost stuck at my work site on Thursday. I spent a good 20 minutes trying to get the phone and Uber to work to get home for the day. Neither was happening, so I had to call the internship office and someone there order me one. Since I switched to my US phone I thought it would work just great. Well this morning I woke up to go on a sunrise hike at 7:30 am. At 7:15 I try to order a Uber. The data is working just fine, everything is loading, then “verify card.” So I spend the next 3 hours trying to get a form of payment for Uber. Spent half of that trying to verify my bank with PayPal. Hopefully, it is now all squared away but I don’t want to get my hopes up. Feeding myself this week took a few days. The first day here I had every intention on going to get groceries, turned out I was super tired and fell asleep as soon as I laid my head down. The next day, Wednesday, was a bus tour. I did eat dinner this day. Finally, got to the grocery store Thursday after work. The last trial has been sleep. I think I am finally on a proper sleep schedule. Throughout the week, if I was not in an organized activity I was asleep. But the weekend should put me on track.

So now that it seems like I had a terrible week, lets talk about all the fun and amazing things. On Wednesday I took a bus tour. It was one of those giant double decker tourist buses. Always thought they were kinda lame, but honestly a great way to see Cape Town for the first time. I went with 6 other interns. Our first stop was in Constantia where we visited a winery. Turns out at 11 am, going on your third day with minimal food, wine tasting gets to you quick. The wine was delicious though. Next we stopped off at World of Birds. Starting as a personal bird collection years and years ago, it is now a bird and monkey sanctuary. There were so many different birds and we got to go in an enclosure with some monkeys that just climb all over you. Our final stop was the waterfront. Here I had my first proper meal in Cape Town. Went to a restaurant that served just about everything. I had a pizza, which I made sure to have leftovers for work the next day. Thursday was my first day at work. I started the day by going to a post mortem (necropsy) of a porcupine. Then the afternoon was spent out with the eland and a monitor. They are magnificent animals. The monitors are with them whenever they are out of their boma (enclosure) to not only collect data but to protect them from poachers and other hazards. The monitor was telling me how violent some of the neighborhoods are (not mine) and how he hopes he can one day and afford to move his family. It is really a different world here and in just the few short day I have been exposed to so much. Everyday here make me appreciate so much more what we have in he states. We take so much for granted. Here in Cape Town it is inadvisable to walk down the street by yourself after dark. In my neighborhood to avoid getting mugged for your phone or wallet, but in the monitor’s neighborhood it is to avoid being killed. Gang violence is so bad that he said even the police are scared if they are not in a large enough group. It is so important to understand and have an awareness of what goes on in the world outside out little bubbles back home. Friday, VAC is took us to do a wine tasting like an hour to the north at a vineyard and farm. They do different activities every Friday. Next week is a hike and the week after is a braai (BBQ), weather permitting.

We will see what the rest of the weekend has in store for me.

48 hours from PDX to CPT

After 48 hours of travel I am finally in Cape Town. The trip started on Friday, leaving my apartment in Corvallis in the early afternoon to allow time to stop at IKEA for some last minute things. Actually, I only went there for a pillow, but picked up a towel as well, which should have been one of the first things I packed. Good thing too, because after that many hours of travelling, not being able to shower any longer would not have been enjoyable. Flew from Portland to JFK in New York. Then an 11 hour layover in terminal 4 and no it was unfortunately not nearly as exciting as Tom Hank’s Terminal. Apparently you cannot check bags with Delta until 6 hours before your flight, that meant 7 hours in the arrival waiting area that has a diner, Dunkin Donuts, and the most uncomfortable seating I have ever encountered at an airport. But, once I got through it meant a date with Shake Shack and an amazing strawberry shake. JFK to Amsterdam was almost the same duration as PDX to JFK, so that was nice. Although, I was asleep when they passed out breakfast which was rather unfortunate. After a short couple hours of waiting, it was time for the long leg. 11 hours from Amsterdam to Cape Town. Now I have done long stretches before, PDX to Frankfurt is about the same duration, but it is still brutal. 48 hours of traveling does lend itself to lots of movie watching though, 6 to be exact. Bright, The Kingdom, Jumanji, Justice League, 15:17 to Paris, and Tomb Raider.  And after all of that, landed in Cape Town , met my internship contact, got dropped off at my house, unpacked, and managed 4 hours of sleep before I got restless. Unfortunately it was already dark when I landed so I didn’t get to see any of the wonderful natural sites, but in about 40 minutes the sun should be coming up and my journey in Cape Town will begin. This week will include an internship orientation, walking tour of my neighborhood, bus tour of Cape Town, visit to my internship site, and a braai on Friday. Should be an exciting week. Check out the follow on Twitter and Instagram links to see all of the amazing things I get to experience these next 3 months.

Preparation

As my trip nears my preparation is coming to an end. It has been over 2 years since I decided I would pursue an international internship, 6 months since I submitted my application to IE3 Global, 5 months since I chose to go to Cape Town, and 4 month since my internship was confirmed with Volunteer Adventure Corps (VAC). I navigated spring term with minimal distraction of my pending adventure and now I have waited 3 weeks since my last spring final to begin the 2 day trek from Corvallis to Cape Town. In the last couple weeks I have finally immersed myself in the excitement of the coming 12 by reading and watching as much about South Africa as I can. One of my favorite prep days included watching 4 movies from a pre-arrival list provided by VAC. Starting as soon as I woke up taking me all the way until it was time for bed, I watched Invictus, District 9, Cry Freedom, and Stander. All of which I would highly recommend.  It is now time that I begin to pack my bags and try to think of anything that I might have forgotten. This time next week I will be about as far away from home as I can be. I will be travelling through 3 different continents, across the equator into the southern hemisphere, and switching seasons from summer to winter. I could not be more excited and anxious thinking about what the next 84 days have in store for me.

In the beginning…

In one week I will be leaving Corvallis, Oregon for Cape Town, South Africa. This is where I will spend the next twelve weeks interning at the Cape Town Environmental Education Trust. Follow my blog to hear about my experiences working in conservation abroad and all the different adventures I have over the next three months.