Hello from South Africa!
I’ve been here a week now and I never want to leave this beautiful country. Stellenbosch is a “small” town with the university at it’s core – there’s so much energy from the student body and the sun just illuminates the already stunning campus and scenery. We have a huge mountain in our “backyard” that basically looks as if it’s touching the sky, and our apartment in Concordia is amongst a number of other international students, making it such an interesting and diverse place.
I have three roommates in my Concordia apartment (“flat”) (see photo below) and they’re wonderful! Everyone in our AIFS program is so great, and I’m excited to keep meeting people from all around the world.
Thursday night was the end of our international orientation and we had a welcome dinner/party in the town hall (which is also beautiful, of course). We danced for hours and ended up heading to some of the local hangouts afterwards which was really cool – I love seeing where the local Stellies spend their free time.
On Friday Emmy, Leah, Colleen and I went out to TasteBud (a super cute cafe in town) for lunch. I got a legit iced latte (FINALLY – iced coffee here normally is just a milkshake-looking thing) and it was fabulous – there were also some coffee shops and cafes next door that looked adorable so I can’t wait to check those out soon (one even had FREE wifi – score! Since the wifi here on campus is charged by the megabyte, I’m definitely planning to spend some afternoons at those little cafes with free wifi)
On Saturday we had the chance to sign up for clubs that mainstream South African students are a part of – I joined adventure club (rock climbing, mtn biking, hiking, etc.) and wine tasting club (the Stellies LOVE their wine!) Then at 5:00 (17:00) that night, we all went to the Stellenbosch Wine Festival where we paid only R30.00 (~$3) to taste wines from at least 20 different vineyards from the area. By the end of it, I knew that the sweeter white and rose wines were my favorite, and I nearly died of disgust after tasting a terribly peppery red wine. I think we’ll be experts by the end of this semester…
On Sunday we finally got to see Cape Town! We spent the day at the beach – and thank god because everyone here is tan and gorgeous and all of us Americans looked ghostly white in comparison. I’m actually a pretty solid shade of red at the moment, so hopefully that fades into a legitimate tan and it doesn’t just peel off…
I’m in love with everything that is Stellenbosch…the people are ridiculously friendly, it’s completely normal to walk around EVERYWHERE barefoot (sounds like Vermont, right?), the sun is always always shining and that makes it seem like such a happy environment, the wine is fabulous (and everyone LOVES to drink wine), you can walk to literally everything in town (no public transportation necessary, thank god), the food is delicious, and I’m so so happy about the mix of people in my program – we’re an awesome group of 17 people and I have such a good feeling about this semester.
BUT there are some interesting things that we’re still adjusting to…
here are a few of them…
1. Pedestrians don’t have the right of way – at all. Watch out when crossing the street or you probably WILL get hit.
2. Iced coffee = coffee milkshake/slushie thing. No Starbucks? Yikes.
3. The food has basically no preservatives, which means you go to the grocery store every 2 or 3 days to get fresh food or it will spoil quickly.
4. Wifi is charged by the megabyte. So when I just uploaded about 75 pictures to Facebook, I was charged R0.71, which is about $0.07…but still, it will add up…
5. People don’t walk around listening to music or talking on their phones – South Africans are very slow paced and like to have legitimate conversations with others instead of having their heads buried in their phones.
6. If you don’t ask for your check at a restaurant/cafe, it probably won’t come until the place closes…in America, you will be pressured to leave your table when you’re done eating, but in South Africa, your table is completely & 100% yours until you choose to leave.
7. You will get burned if you don’t wear sunscreen…even just walking around on campus. About half of this terrible burn I have on my arms is because I didn’t buy sunscreen for 4 or 5 days after we got here.
8. These people love to be active – we’ve seen surfers, bikers, skateboarders, runners…people hike, rock climb, swim, etc etc. Even just walking everywhere is being active…SO so different than America.
9. You can’t just plug something into the outlets in the walls..even if it’s a south african device. There is a 2 hole converter with 3 prongs to plug into the 3-hole outlet for a south african device, but for an american device you have to plug a 3-prong adaptor with a built-in or separate voltage converter, otherwise your appliance/device will burn up.
10. If someone (a mainstream South African student) lives in a “Res” (residence), that pretty much means they are part of a sorority or fraternity, whereas in America your residence is simply the dorm or suite/apartment/whatever where you live. This was pretty confusing at first when meeting some South African students.
11. Wearing face makeup here is pretty useless because it’ll just melt off after 20 minutes in the sun. Everyone here looks so natural and beautiful with their fabulous tans and whatnot. I’ve only been putting on eyeliner and mascara everyday now, so my morning routine has been cut down from over an hour to about 15-20 minutes, including throwing on clothes. (This is definitely a positive thing – just VERY different for me specifically)
12. South Africans at clubs don’t actually dance, they do this strange arm waving stuff and occasionally sway a bit…but moving your hips? What is that?
13. “Lekkar” is used to describe anything nice. That meal from last night? It was lekkar. Your necklace? Very lekkar. Would you like a lekkar smoothie from the student center? Yes please!
14. The majority of their music is American music – but it’s pretty much all remixes/edited/etc, so it’s much more upbeat!
So, that’s what we’ve learned so far… and I’m sure there’ll be much more. Even with many new things to adjust to, I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to live in the stunningly beautiful place until June. I really never want to leave. But really, never.