So apart from my encounter with The Artful Dodger on the day I visited the school, and the subsequent pall that has cast over my wanderings, the first week has overall been pretty pleasant. Here’s a recap, mostly for my benefit, so I can remember things to write about later. But if you enjoy elliptical phrases and references to streets you’ve never been on, have at it. And if someone (AHEM, ELLEN) wants to remind me how to make HTML links so I can find the appropriate restaurant websites and so forth for the folks following along at home, we can be all interactive and shit. You know, like Dancing with the Stars.
Leaving – at UIC at 9 am to receive my final shot; my awesome sister drives my ass up to Carmax to sell the Civic, which fetchs 3 grand! Ha! Thanks, Carmax, you suckers! Cruise by a bank branch and find a Potbelly’s with time to spare, though I am delayed by my luggage, which is over the 70 lb limit…by 3 lbs. Goodbye, running shoes.
The plane ride – long, sleepy, cramped, and full of dumb romcoms and food I’d never normally eat. I can recommend a Japanese flick called Departures, a bit sad but very sweet. I interact with no one, thankfully, and the leg from Amsterdam to Cape Town is 11 hours, of which I sleep approximately 7.
Tuesday night – arrive 9:30, am the last one through customs, take what appears to be the last cab at the airport to the city, and sleep like a dead person.
Wednesday – sleep to noon in recovery, walk down Long Street to lunch on the Unfortunate Onion Sammich at the absurdly misnamed Debonaire Pizza; then mosey up Strand to buy a phone from 2nd biggest carrier on the continent, MTN, then to school where my contact Michele was already gone by 3:30. Nice work if you can get it. Lovely building – it is a former prison, but nevertheless has a sweet little courtyard and sun-drenched hallways. It’s very SMALL. Heading home, at an internet café I am informed I should find a Clicks for hair dryers and other sundries; Woolworth’s is roundly dismissed as too expensive. A bit lost on the way home, but found a Woolworth’s for snacks, a Clicks which was closing, and my hotel, finally. Dinner in the hotel basement, nothing special. Crazy loud wind and jiggity jag jet lag kept me up, while alas! the internet was down.
Thursday – up by 9ish and to Clicks for a hair dryer and bandaids; then off to Bird Boutique and Café for an omelet and homemade lemonade, delish; then to school to collect books, meet staff, and see the V&A Waterfront. I get an honest to god Library card, which I will need because there aren’t enough books in one of my classes to go around, so they are held at the library for general use. Huh? Afterwards, a friendly running shoe salesman in the mall directs me to Gumtree.co.za for short-term apartments, suggests he and I run together if I end up living in City Bowl; I wonder why he would want to run with someone as slow as me until the unceremonious mugging clues me in to the dangers of doing some activities alone. Dinner in my room with Gumtree and Coke – error! JET LAG, idiot!
Friday – continued jet lag meant waking later than I wanted. Went to a cute little deli called Crave for an avocado and chicken sammich for breakfast (or was it lunch?), then strolled down to The Company’s Gardens for a look at the old-school walled park founded by Dutch East India Company. Sat on a bench in the shade to people-watch for a bit, until a piper one bench over drove me off by actually playing, god as my witness, Kumbaya (followed by a number of Christmas carols, and something that I think was supposed to be the Requiem). Meandered around Orange St. to Kloof St, then up Long Street, killing time before seeing a thoroughly uninteresting apartment. Afterwards met up with Luis the Mexican dude, one of the other exchange students, had lunch (or was it dinner?) across from a house he wanted to rent; then I walked back to my hotel. Had to ask the security guy to come with me to use an ATM one block down, because you need someone to watch your back for that. Then got a call from Marie at the International House Of Business Students (Marie & Arturo are French, Richard is German, and Helle is Danish, and the absents Sven, home for a funeral in Norway, and Bernardo the Portuguy, traipsing about in Mozambique) for a bbq; picked up Luis en route. Offhand racism by taxi drivers is not limited to the USA, as we are slowed at a sobriety checkpoint, ours reports with great sincerity, because “the blacks” can’t hold their liquor. In any event, had a lovely time at IHOBS, eating lamb and potatoes off the braai for dinner (or was it dessert?) and drinking red wine, which I don’t usually drink, until only the thoroughly respectable hour of midnight rolls around. (liquor stores close at 5 on Fridays - and no liquor sold in Camp’s Bay, where IHOBS is, apart from in restaurants – but you can get wine at grocery stores.) Promises made to go to a morning fruit market trip tomorrow, but I want to go see a rugby game instead. Both questionable, given the size of the tannin headache I am experiencing by the time I get home.
Saturday – awaking late yet again, despite sleeping the sleep of the drunk, I get a call from Richard asking if I was serious about rugby. Once again am unable to use my internet, so head to an internet café to buy tickets online, but you need to actually pick them up before you can go to the stadium, as there is no will-call. The convenient grocery store branches where you can do this are all closed by 1 on Sunday, but Richard is game to hit the V&A waterfront where resides the TicketMaster analog, CompuTicket, so we race through the mall on a super hot Saturday, hit the freeway, and make it to Newlands only 7 minutes into the first period, when Vodacom WP has already scored against unfortunate rivals, the Boland Cavaliers, in the quarter finals of the Currie Cup. Shockingly, I know, we are irritated by a large band of idiotic, drunk American college students. It is HOT. Widely recognized as the superior club, WP smacks Boland 50 to 7 – a true ass-whooping; Richard and I catch about 30% of what is happening, but that doesn’t stop us from cheering for the home team. We walk entirely around the stadium to get back to the car, but make it home in good order, and meet Helle and Marie at Luis’ house. Dinner at The Royale Eatery is toney and refined, but still manages to be just really good burgers and fries, and shakes. Plus! The joy that is malva pudding. There is talk of bikram yoga tomorrow at 5. I MUST find a gym or other way to exercise, based on this meal alone.
Back at the hotel, my internet works – oh joy! – so I find a new hotel on Orbitz until Wednesday. I sleep two hours…and wake up exhausted. The bed actually wiggles from something not under my power - vibrations of the train yard below triggering a harmonic frequency of the building? Wind I can’t hear? Really monotonous sex next door? No idea, but it goes on forever.
Sunday – wake up to move, and am treated to a bout of ridiculousness, South Africa style. Need to print my hotel confirmation email, so try to go to the business center on the 15th floor – NOTHING and no one is up there, and the lift won’t come back, so I walk down the fire exit 15 floors and emerge in the office building behind the hotel, much to the surprise of the security guards there, since it is Sunday, and the building is otherwise locked. After walking back, I try to use the hotel business center (which was moved to the lobby from 15 the day before) but the printer is not working. It’s close to 11 when I have to check out, and the internet café around the corner is closed today…bah! Fuck it. (Up at my room to collect bags at 11:15, I discover my key has been turned off, and must return downstairs to reactivate it. Argh!) At the Cape Manor, the wi-fi works in the lobby so I can show the hostess my reservation confirmation email … but it doesn’t work in my room. Neither does the safe. Neither does the air conditioning. Awesome. I nap, bathe, and take a half-hearted walk along the ocean shore, which looks quite a bit like Lake Michigan. I wish there were a couple of me so I’d feel more comfortable walking there. Have dinner in the hotel and head upstairs to blog, after the small, quick, perspicacious bird of a waitress tells me, “You look so far away.” I think about explaining that I just spent the entire day moving from one hotel to another only 10 minutes away by cab, but just smile and nod pleasantly, and sign my bill.
Monday – right up the street in Sea Point is a strip of adorable cafes and restaurants, interspersed with tobacconists and laundramats; it reminds me of stretches of Lincoln Ave. Over a bacon egg and cheese croissant and hot tea, I settle in to the serious task of finding a damn apartment, making appointments to see three today and (so far) one tomorrow. One is a supercute little cottage that is too expensive for me as a short-term lessor, and potentially not even available, but oh so excellent, and close to school; another is equally close and off the Main Rd so louder, not as cute, but with a landlord who is eager to help me figure out anything I don’t know, like how to rent a 3G network and navigate rent payment without any checking accounts in-country. The third is worthless. All other time is spent looking at other crap online, and reading emails, and writing up a summary of my first week in Cape Town, which, upon reflection, shows me to be pretty inert when I’m on my own, and does not satisfactorily show the delight I’m generally taking in being here, in being gone, again, finally.