The natural beauty of Cape Town was undeniable as I drove into the city from the airport. Table Mountain greeted me through the window of my apartment building as I began to get settled in. The size of the city was overwhelming as I drove in and I began to feel anxious about all of the possibilities of living in a “big city”. What if I get lost? What If there are too many people to form connections? What if this isn’t the place I thought it would be? Staring up at Table Mountain though I felt oriented and this one peak would become somewhat of of a focal point during my time in Cape Town.
Settling in continued to be somewhat difficult for me, I felt lonely the first couple of days and nervous for my experience ahead. It wasn’t until myself and some of my new friends decided to take a hike to watch the sunset that I felt like I belonged here. The view from the top of the hike was marvelous. I could see the whole city and somehow it felt smaller. The sky began to fade into deep oranges and swollen purples and with the deepening of each color I began to feel myself relax. With the (surprisingly cold) wind hitting my face and the view of the endless ocean I remembered what this experience was all about. Moments like these. I was ready to begin my journey.
Although the sunset hike helped me get over the mental hurdle I struggled with during the first couple of days of my trip there have been some things that have certainly been tough getting used to! The number one challenge I have faced in Cape Town is having to work around loadshedding (periods of no power). South Africa is in the midst of an energy crisis which leads to widespread power outages that are often planned but have been occurring twice a day for roughly two and a half hours each time since I arrived. This means no charging electronics, poor wifi connectivity (if any), closed stores, dark rooms, and no refrigeration. This makes grocery shopping particularly difficult because meat/produce/dairy will go bad quickly. Alternatively eating out is a good value for your money, usually ranging between $7-$30 USD for an entire meal! I have done more eating out then I initially thought I would, however, it has been a great way to insert myself into South African culture and try new things.
Additionally another challenge I have been struggling with is adjusting to the immense inequality that I see on a daily basis. Learning about the apartheid rule has been extremely difficult and seeing the effects even in a post-apartheid society has been emotional to say the least. While above I highlight the beauty of Cape Town it is also worth noting that while driving in from the airport I passed multiple townships, which are communities where Black Africans were forced into under the apartheid rule and still live in great poverty today. Cape Town remains one of the most unequal places in the world and understanding how to navigate a society where there is this amount of racial and economic inequality is something that I will probably never adjust to. It is one of my goals while I am here to learn about Cape Town’s history and how that history translates into today.
So far this experience has been full of beauty I could have never imagined and people who are unforgettable. I feel welcomed in the city of Cape Town and ready to soak up every ray of sunshine I can.