It’s been a week since I arrived in Cape Town and what an amazing, freaking week! I am loving the sunshine and warm temperatures (around 75/80) and could definitely get used to the adventure all day, work all night schedule! As many have expressed on this journey so far, we’re kind of in this time warp where the year will go by really fast but this week felt like the longest, most full week of my life!
Saturday night, January 28th, I said bye to my parents, friends, and home and took off on a flight to London. I spent my 10 hour layover wandering around the area near Victoria station, checking out cool places like Westminster Abbey and Trafalgar Square. Then I boarded for what ended up being the roughest 12 hour flight to Cape Town. I had planned to sleep the whole time but after insane, scream-causing turbulence in the first hour, the flight was a lot of brief napping interrupted by bouts of a roller coaster ride. I did make friends with the person next to me who was a Cape Town resident and helped me get prepped for the city I was about to land into.
Upon arrival, I paired up with another Remote Year traveler and we Ubered our way to the apartment space. Wasting no time, we had an hour before we had to report to our city welcome. Remote Year provides a city guide/local expert in each city we visit who is able to give us the inside scoop on activities, language, and safety. For more information on Remote Year itself, check out the About Remote Year page! The welcome was followed by a lunch on the seaside promenade and the year had officially begun!!
Cultural Differences (so far):
- Hey! They drive on the other side of the road here! Having an annoyingly hard time training my brain to look the correct way before crossing a street.
- Ubers are the way to get around. Even though the workspace is a 5 minute walk from my apartment, it’s not advised to do when it’s dark. Luckily, they’re also really cheap. Average Uber is around 20 RAND which is under $2.
- Water conservation is a must! Last year this time, Cape Town experienced a huge drought that caused very strict water regulations. They’ve since made strides forward in the reserves but efforts to conserve water are prevalent. We are encouraged to take two minute showers, use a cup to brush our teeth instead of running the water, and there is a bucket in our showers that we can fill as we shower and use the water to flush the toilet. The real question is: just because we don’t have a drought, why don’t we adopt these practices in the US?
- Food is really inexpensive compared to Boston. You can easily get a fully prepared lunch for $3. My full load of groceries for 2 weeks was $25.
Disclaimer (of sorts):
While I have seen and experienced some beautiful things this week, I have also seen some and heard of some pretty horrible things. Saturday night I witnessed a man bleeding out in the middle of the road. One day this week, a member travelling with us had a necklace ripped off her neck while she sat with the window down in the back of an Uber. There is poverty everywhere and homeless people here are very in your face asking you for money. While the majority of the people here are black, there is an overwhelming sense of white privilege.
Nonetheless, below is a summary of what I’ve been up to:
- Check into apartment. Got my own space with a painting of the Dalai Lama on the wall. Each Remote has a different person. Kitchen, bathroom, bed, couches, tv, and table for two just for me!
- City welcome, grab lunch, walk to Green Point Park for lunch with the group.
- Go to work for the first day Remote! Remote Year has its own space within a shared workspace. It’s about a 5 minute walk from my apartment. Video conferencing into my office meeting was an adjustment, but the team in Boston has been amazing in terms accommodating my new setup. I have reduced my hours from 40 hours to 20 as well, so that’s felt challenging in terms of getting everything I need to done in the time allotted.
- Grocery shopping! One of the things I was most excited for this trip was the ability to live a ‘normal’ life within each city, including going to the grocery store and cooking for myself. Culture note: I was the only one in the grocery store at that moment with white skin. This was new.
- Spent the day settling into my new space and walked a bit around the neighborhood. We are staying on one of the main few streets that all run parallel through downtown of the city. As soon as you exit the building, there’s lots of commotion: street vendors, people going to the store, people headed to work, people exercising, taxis, Ubers.
- Hiked Devil’s Peak with most of the group and our leaders. Got a taste of the city from above but only got clouds when we finally reached the top. Made for some cool photos anyway!
- Got lunch with some of the group at a cute café. There are so many very trendy places to eat with ‘instagram worthy’ aesthetics.
- Work work work
- Visited the colorful neighborhood of Bo-Kaap. It’s a string of 4ish blocks of buildings painted in different bright colors. Had a little photoshoot because what else does one do there??
- Rode over to Blouberg beach with some new friends, had lunch overlooking the water and mountains. The water is beautifully blue (but insanely cold because it drifts from Antarctica) and the view from this beach is AMAZING. 10/10.
- At the beach, attended the ‘King of the Air’ kitesurfing competition. It just so happens to be the world’s largest event for this sport. I struck up a conversation with a man who ended up being an avid kite surfer with a lot of connections in the community, and he explained the scoring and goals to me. Really cool sport, but also very dangerous at times! Cape Town is a good location for it because there’s consistently good wind.
- Morning workout on the roof of our apartment building, overlooking the mountains
- Headed to Clifton Beach 2nd for beach volleyball and hangout with the group of Remotes. It’s really crazy how quickly we’ve become close and comfortable with each other. Again, another beautiful beach.
- Side note: the sun here is very strong, definitely got some burn going on
- Lunch at the Mojo Market. Cute, trendy indoor market similar to your Boston Public Market. Great for catering to various dietary desires.
- Remote Year orientation. The most painless of orientations I’ve ever been to, but still long. Took part in a ‘Pecha Kucha’ where we all had to share a 30 second summary of ourselves with pictures. An ice breaker I thought was clever was ‘take out your phones and describe to the person next to you the significance of your lock screen’. A surprisingly cool way to get insight into people’s interests
- Cape Town 10s. Where to begin? The event is hosted at a rugby club and is a compilation of local sports events from cricket to rugby to soccer. It was held right next to the stadium that was built for the World Cup a few years back. While the event was for athletes, it becomes a huge tailgate like experience for fans and visitors. Lots of beer, lots of beat up people from their various sports, and lots of celebration. As games wrap up, the night transitions to a huge tent filled with dancing, music, lights, and socializing. Turns out rugby players know how to party! They also make good kissers 🙂
- Finished the night at a club called SoCal where one of our group leaders and his brother were DJ’ing. A large representation of our group was there and it made for a fun way to close out the long Saturday.
- Our first bit of rain since we arrived, made for a natural late morning
- Brunch at Oranjezicht Market in the Sea Point neighborhood. Open air market with a variety of vendors. Brunch area included booths for waffles, vegan burgers, smoothies/juices, Ethiopian food, Vietnamese food, crepes, etc. All very fresh and deliciously made. Highly recommend the market itself!
- Nap and cleaning, had no time for either this week!
- Bike ride along the Sea Point promenade and my first Cape Town sunset.
- Super Bowl….hasn’t happened as of when I wrote this, but the plan is to rally for the 1am kickoff and hang with people in an apartment.
Overall, minus feeling overwhelmed by how much there is to do, I am having the time of my life! I know that there will be highs and lows this year, but I hope I can maintain this desire to explore and take everything in. I’ve entered an amazing community of people and have kicked off in the most beautiful city I could imagine! Here’s to a year of learning and growing!
Anyway, that’s it for now! Go Patriots!