Click-hello Connecticut College, friends, family, ladies, and gentlemen. Had I gone abroad to Europe or South America, I would have started this blog with a familiar “Hola” or “Bonjour.” However since I am currently stationed in Cape Town, South Africa, I began this entry with a click and a hello. South Africa recognizes 11 official languages and English is the most widely used, but I have also heard murmurs of a click language called Xhosa in the grocery store, as well as some Afrikaans (but I don’t know any of that language yet, so English plus some clicks will have to do for now).
Anyways, I am Megan Reback. I study Government and English at Connecticut College. About a week ago, I travelled over eighteen hours to South Africa to study abroad at the University of Cape Town for four and a half months. And to answer your initial questions: No, I did not see the final world cup game, or any of the world cup for that matter; Yes, I know that there is a lot of crime here. There are certainly reminders of both.
To address the first point on the world cup: I hear vuvuzelas every day. Our orientation leaders use them to get our attention, and being able to blow one is practically a rite of passage in South Africa (as a former trumpet player, I can!). One kid from Trinity tried and ended up producing what sounded like an exasperated cobra hiss. After his failed attempt, he sauntered quickly up the lecture hall stairs and fell. Between this and Americans’ tendency to scream (or “squeak” as my European roommates call it) while out at bars, getting friendly, and getting too drunk, the USA has become the brunt of one too many jokes. I guess it is deserved.
To the latter point on crime: TIA, as they say. Or, This Is Africa. But it is also an African-European hybrid. The city’s infrastructure and the white suburbs are all reminiscent of Dutch and British colonialism. This gives the façade of safety and security. However, the townships, gross unemployment, and pervasive poverty are all very African. The legacy of apartheid is alive and well here, so there is crime.
I saw a carjacking the other night. I sort of did a double take and walked away quickly with my group of ten. My house is in one of those white suburbs and is surrounded by a fence with spikes and barbed wire. There are burglar bars, an intercom, and several locks. Some people in my program have already been mugged, and a woman was stabbed in broad daylight just a few miles away.
I wish I could say that this has nothing to do with me and will not affect me, but this reality will guide my decisions and behavior while I am here (so family, no need to worry). In other words, TINC. Or, This is NOT Conn.
I actually have only felt unsafe once, and it had nothing to do with the threat of petty crime. I went to a harbor town a few train stops away called Kalk Bay. The fish market there reminded me of a place and time I have never been a part of, and the commerce was humble and sound. We watched seals playing in the water. It was all very quintessential-harbor-town until a seal hopped onto a step leading out from the water. Tourists gathered closer to admire its surprising move. Then, its massive body landed on the next step. And then the next, and then there were screams and it joined the humans on land and hopped toward a woman. Hopped is almost too friendly of a word because its move was horrifying. Here is a picture of the seal-criminal:
Classes start next Monday! I will write again. For now, enjoy the rest of summer, the job hunt, or the job. I will work on the vuvuzela.