A Lesson in Vocabulary

Language here is very interesting. First of all, in South Africa there are 11 official languages. Yep, 11! But don’t let that freak you out because in Cape Town pretty much everyone speaks English, which I find to be a good and bad thing. Other than English, the languages for the locals are Xhosa and Afrikaans. Xhosa is what black people speak and Afrikaans is what coloured and white people speak. But like I said previously, everyone also speaks English if they are school aged or older.

As I explained before I mostly work at the head quarters of Grassroot Soccer so I’m not out in the townships very much surrounded by people that are constantly talking in Xhosa. I do hear Xhosa and Afrikaans in the office on a daily basis, but not nearly enough to really even understand the most basic of sentences. And I’ll be honest and admit that I haven’t been very proactive to learn the local languages for a variety of reasons. However, language in general fascinates me, so I do like listening to people talk in their native language and try to ask questions whenever I can.

The interesting thing about Xhosa is its use of clicks. The letters x, c, and q are all clicks. Instead of trying to explain it, here’s a youtube video that always amuses me that is an example of some clicks.

Afrikaans is derived from Dutch. The accent of people that speak Afrikaans is somewhat of a mix between British and Dutch and German if you can picture that in your mind. I have to answer the phones at work sometimes and for the most part I do ok, but people with thicker accents can be a little more difficult to understand which I’m trying to work on.

Lastly, the English here is British English and not American English. So I think that’s one of the more unexpected things for me to experience. I knew that they spoke British English here, but I didn’t realize how many words would be different. There can definitely be a language barrier even when 2 people are speaking English!

So like I said above, I honestly haven’t picked up on much local language, but below are some words and phrases that have become a regular part of my vocabulary.

Moloweni = Hi in Xhosa
Dankie = Thank you in Afrikaans
Yabo!! = Yes!!

Common Afrikaans/British English words and phrases:
Pleasure = you’re welcome
Cheers
Sharp – said at the end of conversations
Is it? = really?
Shame man
Robot = stop light
Que = line
Schedule = spreadsheet
Hows it? = Hows it going?

Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone

So you would think that moving to another country, on another continent would be the epitome of stepping outside of my comfort zone. However, as someone who grew up as a military brat, is used to moving every 2-4 years and loves an adventure, I wouldn’t put moving to Cape Town at the top of my list for being out of my comfort zone.

So before I even got here, I told myself that I would take on any adventures, opportunities, or journeys that would put me outside of my comfort zone while I was here. The first taste of stepping outside of that comfort zone came in the taste of dance lessons. Yes, you read that correctly, my level of anxiety increased due to dance lessons.

I guess I’ll back up a little and say that I’m pretty athletic and enjoy working out. I also enjoy going out and dancing at clubs. But when it comes to dance lessons or choreographed dances, I’m a big fat failure. So I decided that what better time than now, to take a leap (literally and figuratively) and try something new and exciting.

I googled dance lessons Cape Town and stumbled upon iKapa Dance Theater. It’s a unique program in that they also work with youth in some of the local townships to help develop their talents. So I contacted them and found out they offer weekly contemporary dance lessons for all levels on Wednesdays. I didn’t even think about it and I just went ahead and signed up for my first lesson before I could change my mind.

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The adventure to the lessons began because I had to walk there straight from work. I’m so used to relying on my handy dandy iPhone back home, that I get slightly nervous when I have to walk to a new place without easily accessible directions. However, I’ve become accustomed to carrying a map with me and just hoping that I find where I’m going without getting too lost. I was on a stretch of road for awhile, with the sun glaring in my face, but I finally stumbled upon the dance studio in an unsuspecting building.

I felt at ease as I was buzzed into the building and I read the quotes below on the stairs.

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“Nothing happens until you make it happen.” That quote really stuck out to me and is something that I try to remember regularly, but it can get easily forgotten. I’m not going to meet new people or find new hobbies, if I just sit on the sidelines. So these dance classes weren’t just dance classes to me, but an example of how I was making something happen.

The lessons turned out to be really fun, even though I’m 100% sure that I looked like a fool. Being graceful isn’t my strongest attribute, but I’m sure with time, things will improve. However, during that hour moving around freely in the studio, I felt relaxed and joyous. Dance is so universal (like soccer) and to be in a studio with people from a variety of countries put a smile on my face. Unfortunately, I sprained my ankle recently playing soccer so I haven’t taken lessons in a couple of weeks, but I hope to return soon.

Whatever it may be, I hope that everyone can find a way to step out of their comfort zone and enjoy the journey along the way.

Muizenberg: Hang Ten

It’s finally starting to warm up slightly, so thought it’d be a perfect opportunity to head to the beach.

I don’t think I talked about it before, but let me explain Cape Town weather to you briefly. In one word: Unpredictable. So I knew coming here in August, it would be winter, but didn’t exactly know the true definition of Cape Town winter. Winter = temps in the 40s and 50s with rain, lots and lots of rain, plus strong wind gusts. Until this past week, there were no more than 2 days in a row without rain…and I’m not exaggerating. Many mornings it would start out sunny, but out of nowhere the rain would start to pour. I can’t remember how many downpours I’ve gotten caught in so far.

Another issue with winter is that most houses and offices don’t have heat. So 40 or 50 degrees doesn’t sound that cold, but when it also feels that cold when you’re inside trying to relax at home, it gets old fast. I will admit that I get cold very, very easily, but I don’t think I’m exaggerating here. I met a man who is from South Africa, but lived in Connecticut for several years. He made me feel like I wasn’t crazy for being cold all the time because he said that he generally feels colder here in South Africa than he did in Connecticut because of the lack of heat in many places here.

So needless to say I’m happy that it’s officially spring here, there are days without rain and I can walk around without a coat on. Although there are several beaches around Cape Town, Muizenberg is one of the more popular destinations. It’s rather popular for being a prime surfing location. On the particular day that I was in Muizenberg the Earthwave Beach Festival was taking place. Hundreds of surfers were in the water to attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the most surfers to surf 1 wave.

About 150-200 surfers were in the water, which was a cool sight to see itself. The surfers were old, young, black, white, male, and female, so it was definitely an event for everyone. They would all line up in the distance, while the announcer would give them instructions. There was someone watching from afar near the mountains to monitor the waves. When that person deemed that a good wave was coming, the announcer would ready the surfers, give them instructions and tell them to start paddling. Some rounds were a lot more successful than others, but it was still fun to watch. I’m unsure if the record was broken (which I think is 110) because they use photo and video after the event to count the number of people on the wave to find out if the record was broken. Even if the record wasn’t broken, it was a fun day and I highly recommend heading to Muizenberg if you’re in Cape Town during the spring or summer. There are plenty of surfing schools in the area, to pick up a surfing lesson or 2!

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A Lesson in Patience

Before I arrived in Cape Town, several people warned me of Africa time. You know, the laid back, slow pace of life. I’m somewhat used to it as we call it CP time back in the states, I have some Caribbean friends, plus my experiences in Haiti have all given me little touches of Africa time.

So from the beginning I’ve tried to embrace the fact that things might not start on time and may take awhile to get going. However, I’ve recently come to a new revelation that has helped ease my frustration for waiting because sometimes I can be a tiny bit impatient.

Several times at restaurants it has take awhile for the server to greet us, take our order or deliver our food. Somewhat of a frustration, yet I’ve decided to think of it in a different way. Unless I genuinely have to be somewhere after dinner, what’s the rush? If the server is taking a long time, I’ve embraced that as an opportunity to talk more with whoever I’m out to dinner with and truly enjoy their company.

A few times I’ve ordered food for take-away, which again takes longer than in the states. But I’ve used that as a time to talk to the cashier and share stories and learn a little about them and exchange some laughs. The food eventually comes and I’ve had a nice conversation, so is it really a big deal that it took an extra 10 minutes than I expected? I’m starting to realize, no it isn’t a big deal!

So every time I start to feel myself on the verge of getting frustrated on having to wait for something, I remind myself that maybe the new found time could be spent making a friend, reading a newspaper, sharing a laugh or thinking about the future. These small lessons are making this journey all the more meaningful. Hopefully I’m able to fully embrace this new lesson in patience once I head back to the states because I’ve learned it’s not so bad after all to be on Africa time!

Some of the delicious food I’ve had in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Why am I here?

I briefly described Grassroot Soccer in a previous post, but it’s really hard to get a sense of our programs until you’ve seen them…preferably live and in person! My work here at GRS is mostly a desk job, doing behind the scenes stuff here at headquarters, which is what I wanted to do for the year, but it’s easy to lose focus on the work that GRS actually does.

Thankfully today as I sifted through dozens of emails I had time to reflect about the work that GRS does and the exciting curriculum it spreads throughout this country, the continent and world to help stop the spread of HIV.

Here are 2 youtube videos that we watched during orientation and I took the time to watch today for a little reminder about why I’m here and the wonderful work that GRS does. Enjoy!


Penguins, penguins everywhere

Penguins are officially my new favorite animal!

Ok so I’ll tell the full story. Recently I took a short train trip to a cute beachy town called Simon’s Town. Coincidentally enough Simon’s Town is the home of the South African navy and I grew up a navy brat since my dad was a navy pilot. So how fitting that I visit.

The train station is in the heart of Cape Town and is pretty inexpensive. For R28, which is approximately USD 3.35 I traveled from Cape Town to Simon’s Town, which is about an hour ride. The train isn’t exactly a high speed train, but it’s definitely a good little distance.

The scenery on the train trip was well worth the R28. About half way through the trip, the train follows the coastline. What a wonderful sight. Mountains and beach and more mountains and more beaches for a good 30 minutes. I think I mentioned it before, but Cape Town and its neighbors have given me a new appreciation for nature.

A few kilometers past Simon’s Town is Boulders beach where the penguins live! Boulders beach is pretty much in a residential neighborhood, so one would really only go there to see the penguins. You walk through a neighborhood and follow the signs that say “Penguins” with an arrow until you get to the park. The entrance fee is R45 (~ USD 5.40) and follow the paths to the penguins.

The penguin colony began with 2 breeding pairs of penguins in 1982 and has grown to approximately 2,200 penguins recently! The African penguin is still considered an endangered species though. They were so fun to observe in their natural habit. Some fun facts about the African penguin:

1. Because of their donkey-like braying call they were previously called Jackass Penguin.
2. Their diet consists mainly of squid and shoal fish such as pilchards and anchovy.
3. They can swim at an average speed of 7 km/hr and can stay submerged for up to 2 minutes.
4. Their distinctive black and white colouring is a vital form of camouflage – white for underwater predators looking upwards and black for predators looking down onto the water.
5. Peak moulting time is during December, after which they head out to sea to feed since they don’t feed during moulting. They return in January to mate and begin nesting from about February to August.
6. Penguins have very sharp beaks and can cause serious injury if they bite or lunge.

After I left the penguins, I ventured back to Simon’s Town to check out some of the shops and grab a quick bite to eat. I was lucky in that I found a small genuine leather cross body purse for only R190 (~ USD 22). It was made through a community project in a nearby township that helps to employ people with technical skills.

So if you’re ever in Cape Town, I’d highly recommend at least a half day trip to Simon’s Town and Boulders beach! It’s a neat little area with wonderful scenery, good food and shops and penguins, penguins everywhere.

Why yes, I climbed a mountain this weekend

I was able to cross something off my South Africa bucket list this weekend and hiked Table Mountain. What a great experience! Table Mountain is considered one of the new 7 wonders of nature and now that I’ve hiked it I can definitely see why. Not that I’m opposed to hiking, but it’s never been an activity that I’ve sought out, so it was a pretty new experience for me. I would like to think that I’m in decent shape, but the 1.5 hour hike was definitely a good work out.

The weather was absolutely perfect with the sun shining and a light breeze. As I was making my way up to the top I’d stop periodically to take a look back to see how far I had come and those were great moments. Being a part of nature and witnessing it up close and in person was exhilarating. I was literally in the clouds once on top of the mountain.

The hike was pretty steep throughout, but manageable. Once you get to the top there are views of the city and the ocean. There is also a little cafe and gift shop. If you’re not up for hiking all the way up the mountain, you can take a cable car up and down the mountain. Instead of hiking back down the mountain, I took the cable car down, which was a fun experience itself. The cable car actually rotates so you get a 360 degree view while you descend. It was definitely worth paying R100 to ride the cable car down. If you’re in Cape Town I’d say that Table Mountain needs to go on your must do list and this is coming from a person who isn’t always the true outdoorsy type.

Being in Cape Town has taken my appreciation for nature to a different level. The backdrop of the mountains and ocean and everything in between is something that I never get tired of witnessing.

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