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Excitement in Cape Town: Bikes, Braais, and Classes

There’s no slowing down during my UCT experience, despite the concept of Africa time. The last few weeks of school have kept me busy reading course packs, writing tutorial papers, and scrambling to see something new in every spare second that I have. Sleep really does feel optional some days; however, I’m continuing to wholeheartedly love my time here. The weather is starting to warm up, the palm trees are looking greener, and we can actually see the mountains on most days—we don’t have to squint through the fog anymore!

For the past few weeks, I’ve been continuing to discover more about the greater Cape Town area before I head out of town for excursions in the near future. Two weekends ago, we went on 13 mile bike ride through the prestigious vineyards and wineries in South Africa. To say the least, it was an experience. A large group of us signed up with the impression that we would casually meander through the countryside, taking-in the scenery. What we found, though, was a very difficult bike ride on dirt trails filled with divots and a 3 mile hill, the whole time with a torrential headwind. I knew it was bad when we started to lose people on the side of the road. Some of my friends pulled off the side of the trail, threw down their bikes and insisted on calling a cab. Though this was in all seriousness at the time, I couldn’t help but laugh throughout the day. I think South Africans give Americans way too much credit in the realms of physical fitness. The staff at the on-campus travel agency told us that we would have no problems with this trail, but after we returned home, we found that the website said our tour was “not for the faint hearted.” …Might have been nice to know beforehand. Once we got through the blood, sweat and tears, though, we truly had a great day. I had so much fun spending time with my friends and enjoying countless laughs. The scenery in South Africa is absolutely breath-taking. The mountains are so different from what I’m used to in Colorado and the rolling hills covered in vineyards are a mental image I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.

On Monday, August 9th we celebrated our first “Women’s Day,” which is a national South African holiday. Everyone knows what this means—no class! I spent my luxurious three day weekend catching up on much needed rest and exploring new places in Cape Town. The highlight, though, was our trip to Mzoli’s. Mzoli’s is basically a giant braai in a township about 30 minutes outside of Cape Town and it is a chaotically fun place every Sunday. Everyone goes there in a group and waits in line in a butcher shop to pick out their cuts of meat. The next step in the process is to scramble to find a table and hang out with friends for several hours (usually about 3) until your food is ready. There is, quite literally, barely any room to stand and a DJ blasts music while people eat, socialize, and dance. The food is served in a giant bowl, with no silverware, napkins, or plates. So, we literally pulled meat off of bones and ate it with our hands. It’s quite the mental image- seven adults hovering around a bucket of meat, fighting for the prime pieces, ripping the meat with our fingers and teeth, with sauce flying everywhere. It sounds rather savage-like, but in reality, it’s just good not-so-clean fun. Mzoli’s an American barbeque taken to the 100th power, and the quality of the food was absolutely incredible. I’m definitely adding Mzoli’s to the long list of things I wish I could transplant in America upon my return.

With all of these exciting adventures going on, I sometimes forget to tell everyone about classes when I talk to friends and family at home. This may or may not be a bad thing considering I was brought to South Africa to study at UCT. So far, classes have been a little tough for me to adjust to. I’m not used to having tons of reading to do at home, maybe one 20 page chapter for each class every night. Here, however, I feel like a first grader picking up a 100 page chapter book for the first time. I pick up my two inch thick course reader for a little casual reading every night. Being a slow reader, too, this can be a painful process. The redeeming factor in all of this is my lectures. I love going to my lectures here. I find myself engaged and thinking in very different ways than at DU. I can tell that I’m being taught by the best-of-the-best, and for that I feel extremely lucky.

If you were to ask my friends what the greatest class at UCT is, they would tell you African Dance, though not because they attend the class. Most of my friends are NOT actually in the class, but they love watching me come home and practice. Obviously, I’m not terribly skilled at African Dance and it’s become almost a comedy show and train wreck at the same time for my friends to observe. One of my friends has even stopped waving to me in passing and started greeting me with an African Dance move. I figure there’s no use in being embarrassed, I’m glad I can be such a good source of entertainment.

It’s hard to believe that in one month’s time so much has already happened. The ‘vacation factor’ is fading and it’s really sinking in that Cape Town is home, and my friends really feel like an improvised family. This level of comfort, however, never takes away from the excitement of what will come next while I’m in Africa.

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