T.I.A

So I mentioned in a previous post, that Cape Town isn’t exactly the “real” Africa. Most people joke and call it Halfrica because it is so different than the rest of the country and continent. However, there are certainly moments on a semi-regular basis that I quickly remember that I’m in Africa.

That’s where T.I.A. comes in. It comes from the movie Blood Diamond in which Leonardo Di’Caprio says T.I.A, this is Africa. So my (American) friends and I will often encounter something that doesn’t quite compare to how things work in our normal lives back home and will exclaim “This is Africa!”

It’s not necessarily said in a negative light, just that things are obviously done a little different and often slower here. Like I mentioned in yet another post, learning to be patient is definitely something I’ve been practicing while here.

So my most recent “This is Africa” moment began about 1 week ago. I had a local doctor call in a prescription to the pharmacy for me. Luckily, that part was easy and the doctor was able to fax in the prescription just like it happens in the states. So I was pleasantly surprised things were working so smoothly.

2 days later, I go to pick up the prescription after work around 5:30 and the pharmacy is closed, even though their hours state they’re open until 7. I didn’t think much of it, so decide to go back the next day. The same thing happens. I find a customer service person who was working in the store and ask about the pharmacy counter being closed and she said that they couldn’t find a pharmacist to cover for the afternoon, so they closed.

Now mind you, this isn’t a small mom and pop type pharmacy. This is a store equivalent to CVS or Walgreens with branches everywhere. So I happen to go to that shopping center quite regularly for other things, so 2 other occasions I was in the area and peaked in and yep, the pharmacy was still closed in the evenings although they’re usually open until 7.

Luckily, I didn’t need the prescription right away, so I was finally able to pick it up today. Which leads to my 2nd “This is Africa” moment. I picked up the prescription from the pharmacy, but you can’t pay for it at the pharmacy. The prescription is wrapped up and enclosed in a steel cage with a zip tie. So I continued doing the rest of my shopping with the steel cage in one hand. I thought it was pretty funny and wonder how often people attempt to or get away with stealing their meds.

There are small moments like that in which I’m able to step back and appreciate that I’m living somewhere completely new and foreign. I don’t think I’m taking my time for granted here, but here in Cape Town, it’s pretty easy to feel comfortable and not go out of your comfort zone on a regular basis since it is “Halfrica.” I do my best to learn, understand and think about how even the smallest things are different here. It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day routine, but I enjoy the simple reminders, like picking up my prescription in a steel cage, that keep me on my toes.

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Red, red wine, you make me feel so fine!

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This past weekend I finally got a little taste of the wonderful area of Stellenbosch. Stellenbosch is the premier destination for wine lovers in South Africa. It’s located about 50 km from the city of Cape Town and it’s definitely a must see attraction if you’re ever in the area and like wine and good food. Even if you don’t like wine and good food (which is crazy talk!) the area is very beautiful and worth a visit.
I only made it to one winery in Stellenbosch, but it got me so excited to venture out for more. I was on my way to work one morning and I saw a flier for the Spier wine festival, so I decided it was the perfect opportunity to make it out to Stellenbosch for the first time. I definitely wasn’t disappointed!

I was able to take the train to Spier for only R17 roundtrip ($1.95), which took about 1 hour. Although the ride wasn’t very scenic (it’s not along the water), it was on time, not too crowded and the perfect opportunity for a nap.

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Spier is absolutely amazing! It’s one of the oldest wine farms in the area. It is a beautiful farm with the winery and a hotel. Although the festival was contained to a smaller area, I was able to venture throughout the winery to check out some of the scenery.

For R70 (approximately $8) I got 5 tickets for tasting wine specifically from Spier, plus unlimited tastings of several varieties of Chenin Blanc from other vendors. All of the Chenin Blanc’s were different and some were infused with lime, pineapple, almonds and other flavors. They were all really delicious!
After wondering around for a little while I decided to embark on deciding what to eat. They had a wide variety of food vendors from drinks, to seafood, to dessert. For some reason my sweet tooth was really calling that day and I had 2 desserts. One dessert was a s’more cookie…heavenly! I walked up to the booth and said hi to the lady. She then proceeded to tell me which cookies were available and was excited that she didn’t have to explain to me what a s’more is after she recognized my American accent. I guess the s’more concept is unfortunately not a thing in South Africa. She was actually from Florida and we talked for a few before I devoured my s’more cookie. I did make up for the excess junk food by having a fruit salad as well before I left.

After enjoying the food I bought, I did a little more eating with some cheese tasting. Cheese tasting is something that I’ve always been interested in, but never explored it very much. I honestly don’t remember everything that I tried, but it was all delicious. I decided to purchase some camembert cheese to take home with me because it was only R15! (Less than $2).
So overall it was a wonderful day and I’m looking forward to spending some more time in Stellenbosch throughout the rest of summer!

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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!