Friday, May 21, 2010

Our First Week in Cape Town

Hello and welcome to the account of our summer studying and interning in Cape Town, South Africa!

My name is Sarah Carter and I'm one of ten students from AU studying in Cape Town this summer. We all come from different academic backgrounds at AU, some of us are studying international development, others economic relations, and still others law. I'm studying for my masters in International Peace and Conflict Resolution, and I came to South Africa to learn about conflict resolution and the end of apartheid, democracy building, and development in areas where poverty and unemployment are extremely high.

The SIS study abroad program in South Africa offers the opportunity to learn about peacebuilding in a foreign country from the inside and features a two week seminar on democracy and development in South Africa and a month long internship at a local organization. I'll be working at a local NGO called PASSOP, which stands for People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression, and Poverty. You can check out their website online here:

Over the past week we've had our first lectures on several different topics, including race and class divisions, crime, the political history, the upcoming World Cup, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and economic development. We have most of our lectures at the University of Cape Town. UCT is built on the hillside and has a lower, middle, and upper campus. The view from the upper campus is just beautiful, looking out over the city, and Table Mountain rises up behind the university.

Pictured above (from left to right): Amparo, Sarah (me!), David, Christiane, Karinna, and Maria
Pictured below: The University of Cape Town; Jameson Hall and the main street

As you can see in the pictures, the vines on the buildings are all red and brown. It is the winter season in the Southern hemisphere. It has been cold at night (low 50s/upper 40s) and mild during the day (60s). Our group is staying in a historic house, built in 1893. Because of the mild climate, most homes in South Africa don't have heating, including our house. Not only does it not have heating, but it has an open courtyard in the middle. It's very airy and the nights get a little chilly. I'm so glad I brought an extra blanket with me! You can see pictures of the guesthouse (called Stonehurst) online here: It is wonderful to stay in the guest house, though, because we have the chance to meet other guests and our housemates. I had dinner with two guests that are in Cape Town for a construction job, and our conversation around the table took place in English, Xhosa, and Zulu. Another night we had a tradition braii (BBQ) and the owner of Stonehurst cooked us all wonderful grilled bread and sausages. Yet another evening Ben and I spent over an hour discussing local and international politics, leadership, and spirituality over a cup of tea with Stonehurst's manager. Getting to know South Africans in this informal and friendly setting has been a unique and interesting experience!

Last Friday, we had our first lecture and a tour of UCT. That night we went out to dinner as a group to a restaurant called A Touch of Madness. It was fun getting to know the other students better and trying some new foods, like springbok and kudu, which are like venison.

Saturday was the best day so far! After a rainy and cold first few days, it was glorious and sunny weather. Our professor led us on a tour of the Cape peninsula, through the many coastal towns all the way to the Cape of Good Hope. We stopped to admire the view in a few spots, and the guide pointed out Seal Island in the bay. This island is where they filmed the great white sharks jumping out of the water to catch seals on Planet Earth. Next we visited Boulder's Beach for a short walk. Boulder's beach is famous for its penguin inhabitants. The penguins were right there in their nests with their chicks! They were so cute!

Along the drive we also saw a family of baboons and several ostriches on the side of the road. I was so surprised to see them so closely. A male baboon got up and walked right up next to the car, sat down, and observed us. When we started the car and pulled away, he didn't run or even move, but just watched as we drove off. Baboons can be quite dangerous, I learn from Margeaux (our University of Cape Town liaison), for they can be extremely destructive when they are trying to get food if they get into your house or your car.

The best part of the day was our hike to the Cape Point. I'm scared of heights, so I don't often hike up mountains or along cliff tops, but I made it up to the top and enjoyed it! I was so proud of myself for making it all the way up to the lighthouse! The view was just stunning and I was determined to stand at the southern most point in Western Africa!

We've had such a busy week, full of new sights, new foods, new people, and new ideas. I can't wait for what's to come.


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