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UCT Survival Guide

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So looking back on my trip I realized that though school was a big part of my experience I didn't write much about UCT. So for the students, especially the CIEE students going abroad this fall I decided to write a survival blog on how to maneuver through UCT and some advice to make the most of your trip. First thing I will say is that UCT is a prestigious university in Africa and you do have to put in effort and learn. With that being said, it is important to not overwhelm yourself with classes, this is not like other semesters at Penn State or at UCT. You have an opportunity of a lifetime and you want to take full advantage of it. The next thing to do is go to class and get involved in class discussions even if you do not know much about South Africa. I learned much of what I know about South Africa from class discussions that sometimes veered off from the topic of the day.  Next on the list are the jammie shuttles. You will learn very soon that the shuttle schedule is basically useless and you just have to show up and get on the first one you can find. If  you're hungry, the place places to go are Higher Taste cuisine on the first floor of Leslie social and on middle campus where you will find the best samosas probably in all of  and Panda. So, about the weather, throw away your umbrella and just learn to love the rain. It rains almost every day and yes it does get cold especially in lecture halls so bring a jersey (jacket).  You have internet quota so use your internet wisely. Take your school ID everywhere because you will use it all the time.  Learn some slang so you can engage more with the ZA students.  Get involved, it will change your life! South Africa is the perfect place to volunteer your services to organizations that you won't find in the states. CIEE has an amazing volunteer program and the coordinator Earl is probably on my top most favorite people I have met in my 21 years of living. And finally my biggest advice is that you have an open mind and don't expect too much. Do not compare the academic experience to Penn State. Take it like it's your first year in college where everything is new and exciting and you are doing it for the first time because, well, you are. I hope you have an amazing five months.

A day at Simon's Town

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So I finally got the video of my trip to Simons Town to share with you all. I waited of because it's hard to explain my experience without the video and even the video doesn't do it justice. Simon's town is a small city just outside of Cape Town further down towards Cape Point. It is famous for its beauty, history, and baboons. Yes, I said baboons.
Simon's Town

Beach at Simon's Town
On one of our last Sundays, My friend Andrea and I decided to take a trip to Simons town and it's beach and the journey there was just as breath taking as the destination. We literally had our heads hanging outside of the train.  I suggest you go on a sunny day to get the full experience. You can hang on the beach and/ or go whale watching.  I suggest you go on a Sunday because the train is free and the train is nearly empty. As for the baboons and history, I'll leave that for when you arrive in South Africa.

Home Sweet Home

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I've been back in the states for about four days now and I feel like I belong somewhere else.  It still doesn't feel real yet and I think I already miss South Africa but this was expected. Looking back to my first blog I can say that I achieved every major goal: educational, social, and personal. I overcame my fear of heights even though I didn't get to bungee jumping; I did get to the top of Table Mountain.  I was able to achieve all these goals that I can see have become a permanent part of me and that is my biggest accomplishment. I realize now that I am comparing the states to everything that I love and miss about Cape Town. Most of all I realize that I appreciate more what I have here.  I have made lasting friendships that I intend to carry on. I plan to go back to South Africa in the near future because Cape Town has become a part of me.

Camp

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I didnt get to upload this earlier because I wanted to add a video of us singing on the train on the way from Camp becauseI feel that it shows exactly how the weekend went. 

Friends from church

During the April 13th weekend I went to camp with the students and young adults of Jubilee community church. It has been my church away from home for the past couple of months. It was the most amazing weekend I have had in South Africa. First, the camp was located on the mountain overlooking the ocean in Simon's Town. During the weekend I bunked with two local students and one of the friends I've made from the CIEE  program who goes to the church as well.

friends we made at camp

 It was wonderful just getting to know some Christians in South African and just see that we go through the same things and that we have so much in common. I also got a chance to tell them about my life in the states and what I do as a student at Penn State.  It was a truly blessed weekend. I've never been to camp before and going to camp in South Africa made it all worthwhile.

Smart shopper

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While packing all the gifts I bought for myself and others I decided to write a blog about the best places to get some really cool gifts so that you don't get ripped off.  The first place I would suggest to go if you are good at bargaining is Green Market Square preferably before 1pm. If you do go at one you might miss some venders who have already left for the day but the good part about going late is that you get their packing price where they are more eager to sell things to you. You can find almost everything at green market square (fabrics, jewelry, sculptures, paintings, bags, traditional wear, etc). If you are not that great at bargaining but you are on a budget as we all are the craft market at waterfront. At the market there is a store called Siyakatala that has set low pricing for all their products. You can find gifts as cheap as R20. They have beautiful beaded jewelry, kitchen ware, drums, bow and arrows, sculptures, masks, Zulu hats, and so forth. Their prices are similar to that of waterfront and they can be used as a standard for pricing. The only problem is that they do not have the wide variety as green market Square.  The next two places do not have low pricing for jewelry but have a lot of things you can buy in bulk and more importantly sell fabric and sew clothes. The African Women's market on Long Street sells some really good quality fabrics and patterns which may cost more than other places. There are cheaper fabrics and patterns available also. If you want cheaper fabric and you do not want to go all the way to the city you can go to the fabric store at Station road in Observatory right by stones (don't  worry you will know these areas in like two weeks of being in cape town).  They sell cheaper fabrics and offer some pre-made traditional wear for children. They also have a scrap bin that my friends and I raided to find some cute cloths and turned them into head bands and wraps. We all plan to wear them when we arrive back in the states. 

The games

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So I finally understand the game of Rugby, five months later. After several trips to watch the games at the stadium I've grown to even like the game. It's like football but more brutal, which I can appreciate.

rugby game players.jpg

 I think I'm going to keep up with it when I get back to the states. Now soccer on the other hand I have loved all my life so it was so amazing being in a country where the sport is literally everywhere. There are more soccer fields than McDonalds (hard to believe I know!!!). For a special treat CIEE took us to see a soccer game where the Ajax (pronounced ayax) played the pirates and it was AWESOME, mostly because we were in Cape Town stadium built for the 2010 world cup and yes it is more beautiful in person. 

Cape Town Soccer Stadium
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Overall thumbs up for the sports experience. 

The Old Biscuit Mill

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If you want to see as many CIEE students as possible, all you need to do is go to Old Biscuit Mill (OBM) on a Saturday morning. 

Old Biscuit Mill

The OBM farmer's market is open once a week that sells all kinds of foods and clothing and every Saturday we go it is always packed with people come rain or shine. 

People at the Mill

You can go there just to eat for the day or to shop for your weekly groceries. I think my favorite part of the mill, besides the free samples and falafel, is that it shows how diverse South Africa really is, from the lady from France who makes the best French health bread, to the South American couple steamin' up a mean bowl paella. 

making some delicious sandwiches

 I also love to buy food and just sit on the hay bags and chat with strangers about almost everything. 

Me eating a falafel

The Proper Mzoli's Experience

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The best braii I have ever had has happened at Mzoli's! 

Mzoli's

I don't care where you are in South Africa, if you haven't experienced Mzoli's(especially on a Sunday) , you haven't been to a true braii. This past Sunday was our last time visiting Mzoli's and as usual the meat tasted better than the previous times we went. It like it just gets better and better, if that's even possible.

Here are some tips to have the best experience at Mzoli's :

Make reservations, go on a Sunday and get there by 11 am. Go with friends! 

friends

Order your meat (lamb , sausage, lamb, lamb, and did I say lamb) and pop (the white gritty stuff), and bread  as soon as you get there! 

Mzoli's meat

Oh and bring your toilet paper. Also, bring your own water if possible, Mzoli's doesn't sell drinks but there are places around that do. The place is a little daughy but it's a price you'll have to pay! After about 30 minutes your meat will be ready. Get it, say grace and TEAR IT UP!!!!! I promise you that for about 20minutes you r group will be in complete silence and some may look like they have passed out while sitting up straight but it's completely normal. AND finally the last thing you MUST do is DANCE, DANCE, DANCE!!!!

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Bo-Kaap

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For our final group outing, our RA's took us to the region of Bo-Kaap in the city.

Bo-kaap trip

 Its right up the street from the business district and as you can see it's pretty hard to miss.

Bo-Kaap houses

This area holds much historical value to South Africa. Bo-kaap is a Muslim community consisting of generations of descendents of former slaves brought from eastern Africa to serve the Portuguese rest stop in southern Africa. With their many interactions with different people and languages in Southern Africa, the slaves formed the language which is now known as Afrikaans.  I learned from the people of Bo-kaap that their ancestors were also imprisoned at Robben Island long before it was used as a prison during the time of Apartheid. I enjoyed their welcome and felt their sense of community and it shows through their day to day life. Food, music, and color are a big part of their community. Most of all I enjoyed all their spices and amazing SAMOSAS!!!!

samosas

I have literally eaten my body weight in samosas and potato balls!!! I plan on buying about 6 packets of masala spices and samosas spices to bring home. Every year the people continue a tradition started by the slave ancestors where they put colorful cloth over their clothes to not be recognized and sing songs about their owners. Now it has become a huge competition in Bo-Kaap where hundreds of band collectively consisting of thousands of people come together and compete. 

Bo-Kaap Houses

Imani charnan and I

Home Sick

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As the semester is coming to an end I am starting to realize how much I miss the states and my family and how much more I think about them. I guess this is normal because looking back at the two weeks before coming to Cape Town I was so excited to leave the states and start my adventures abroad. Now I am so excited to go home to my life back home. I think I'm more excited to see how I've changed and how Cape Town has changed me. I can see a little bit of it but I feel like I will see the full effect of it back home. Also it's weird how my love for America and home has grown since being here and it's nothing again here but I guess I just appreciate more what I have back at home. I've grown to accept and appreciate cape town but I doing that I have grown in appreciation for the states as well. I'm trying to continue to enjoy the short time I have here but it's becoming harder to focus on Cape Town the closer I get to the end.I've planned some events in the last two weeks that I still want to do in Cape Town so I can have no regrets about not doing as much as I wanted to do because this is an amazing experience.

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