Week 6: Halfway There

I am now exactly halfway through my time here in Cape Town. 6 weeks done, 6 weeks to go. It is bittersweet. On the one hand I am that much closer to going home and seeing everyone that I miss. On the other, I have 6 more weeks to explore. There is nothing out of the ordinary to write about this week. Work was work. For our Friday activity we went to Muizenberg beach and enjoyed a sunny afternoon there. Saturday went to the Old Biscuit Mill for some food and then a soccer match in the evening. Sunday was occupied with some Netflix with friends, grocery shopping, and relaxing. So instead of writing about the details of those activities I thought I would share with you a transcript of some questions I have answered as part of my OSU internship requirements.

Describe a day in your life:

  • What is your work schedule like?
  • Describe your work. What activities and tasks are you doing day-to-day? Please be specific.
  • What do you do after work?
  • How do you balance your time between work and exploring life outside of work?

Work takes place Monday through Thursday from 07:30 to anytime from 15:30-16:30. There are also times that I do work outside of those hours from home as it is work that can be done on my personal computer. I do not work on Fridays because this is the day that VAC hosts their weekly activities, which are paid for as part of the host site fees, therefore I attend every activity that is offered to me. My day-to-day work activities completely vary depending on what my supervisor has going on in any particular day. I do have a specific project that I work on, which is using a computer program to write data onto camera trap photos in an effort to be able to run some sort of statistical analysis when I finish. If there is nothing else going on during the day I am working on this project. However, every day can be different. We have started trailer training the eland in the mornings, so now my mornings start off by going to the boma and helping with this activity. Some days I have helped build fencing, repair the deck, and other maintenance activities. Other days I have gone with my supervisor to visit other reserves and go to a feed store to pick up food pellets and luserne for the eland. We have conducted several bird call surveys, which consist of going out into the reserve with a sound recorder and visiting ten different locations in each the control and experiment sections. Then recording two minutes in four different directions (north, east, south, and west) at each location. Some days we host school groups that come to learn about the eland and the project. Each day can be something different so there is no typical day.

After work I take the train home. This activity can range from 30 minutes to an hour and half depending on when I get to the station and how the trains are running that day. Once I get home it depends on what I feel up to that day. Some days I just want to relax so I cook dinner and hang out either in the living area with my roommates or I go to my room for the evening. Other work days I have a bit more energy, so I may go out with friends and hang out, hike, or do some other activity. On Monday’s there is ultimate frisbee at the University of Cape Town sports fields, Tuesday are a culture series hosted through VAC, Thursday nights we typically go out to the local bar or to city center to hang out as most of us do not have to be to work in the morning. There is always something going on and it just depends on how active I want to be on any given day.

My work life balance is pretty straight forward. I go to work at the times specified above and the rest of the time I do things that I want to in order to make the most out of this experience. This experience is whatever anyone wants to make out of it. Most supervisors that are associated with VAC understand that we as interns are here to learn about the work and gain experience, but even more importantly, we are here to learn about another part of the world and the people that live here. My supervisor is very understanding if there is something going on outside of work that I am really interested in or if there is a time that I need to take a day off because I am ill or something. I was sick for the better part of two weeks with a head cold and a sore throat and my supervisor completely understood. I took a day off work to rest and was able to work from home a couple other days in order to get better.

Housing:

  • What is your living situation like? What are the pros/cons?
  • Do you have any related advice for future interns?

I live at 49 Milton Rd. This is a ten-bedroom house with a large kitchen, washer and dryer, large living area to hang out, and a large front yard where we have a braai every Sunday with the housemates and other friends we have made. The main part of the house has one and a half baths. My bedroom is in a second detached building behind the main house. There are four bedrooms in this building. My bedroom shares a bathroom with one other room and the other two bedrooms out back have their own bathrooms. My bedroom has a single bed, a desk, a shelving unit, a bedside table, and a wardrobe. There are not really any pros or cons for me to speak of, it is a place for me to stay while I am here in Cape Town. The room is decent, and the house is fine. We had a few issues in the house the first couple weeks I was here, but I emailed Rent-a-Room with our concerns and they came within the next couple of days to take care of them. The only con I can really say is how cold the house is. It is winter here in Cape Town and although it is not as cold as back home, the house stays cold all the time and my room is also cold all time. I have two blankets that I sleep with every night and occasionally with sleep in a sweater if it is particularly chilly. The only advice that I would give for a future intern is to do your research on which house you want to stay in before you come and once you are here enjoy that you are in another country and realize that the house is just a place to stay.

Travel and Transportation:

  • How do you typically get around town and to work? Are you satisfied with that choice?
  • Would you recommend other options?
  • Do you have time to explore the surrounding area on time off? How do you manage that?
  • Where do you recommend exploring?

On a typical work day, I take the train from Observatory to Retreat, from Observatory Station to Retreat Station is 14 stops. A month train pass for the MetroPlus is about $20. In order to make it to work by 07:30 I have to leave my house at 06:30. The train usually comes anytime between 06:40 to 06:50 and if I miss this train it could be up to an hour wait for the next one to come. From the Retreat Station I take an Uber. It usually takes anywhere from three to ten minutes to call an Uber. The price varies between about $3.25 to $5 from the station to CTEET. This depends on the availability of Uber in the area and how many riders are out there. One particularly expensive trip cost about $11 from the station to work. This was due to the minibus taxi strike that was occurring that day in Cape Town. Although, the minibuses in the Retreat neighborhood were not on strike, it was an opportunity for Uber to raise their rates and take advantage of a situation. My trip from work to home is the same in reverse. A few dollars for Uber to the train station, 14 stops on the train, and a short walk from the Observatory Station to my house. I try to catch the train home by 15:40. If I do not catch this train it is about an hour wait and the next train is always packed. If there is a day that I really just want to get home I take Uber straight from work the 49 Milton, which is about a $10 ride. Outside of traveling to work I almost solely rely on Uber to get around Cape Town. As I am usually hanging out with a least a couple other people, if not more, we all split the cost of the Uber. This has been an efficient and safe way to get around Cape Town and is not particularly expensive. A ride back home in Corvallis from my apartment to downtown would cost around $10, the same trip from my house in Cape Town to the city center is about a third of the price. As I have no other choice to get to and from work that would be any more cost efficient I am neither satisfied or dissatisfied. I am a bit frustrated with how much money I will end up spending on Uber to and from the train station for work. I spend the same amount of money on a monthly train pass as I do on one week of Uber for work. Before I arrived in Cape Town I was connected with several other interns that were working in the same neighborhood as I was and one other that was working at the same internship site. I was under the impression that at the very least there would be one other person I could split Uber from the train station to work, which would of saved me quite a bit of money. Turned out the other person at my site only went into work 2 or 3 times in the 5 weeks our internships overlapped and the others working in the same area did not want to take the train and instead simply Ubered the whole commute. I think that many interns here are discourage from using the train and other public transportation due to the perception the host organization puts on this mode of transportation.

I have plenty of time to explore the surrounding area in my time off. One of the main ways to make sure this happens is by attending all the weekly activities hosted by VAC. As I am paying a fee to VAC to be here I am absolutely taking advantage of the activities they host on Fridays. I also try to do something different on the weekends. This can be hiking, exploring a new market, going to a soccer match, or taking a trip over the weekend to explore areas further away. The amount exploring that one does is completely dependent on what that person wants to do. Everyone’s experience is different, and it is what you make of it. I would recommend exploring everywhere possible. From hiking on Table Mountain, museums in the city center, the waterfront mall, to the beach at Muizenberg. There is something here for everyone and it is a matter of going out and finding what you like.

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