WEEK TWOO!! I can’t believe I’ve been here two weeks.

Among the top things I learned this week: South African protests are beautiful and uplifting,

South Africans know how to throw down on a Thursday, and how to embrace second level fun.

Cultural Notes:

  1. Race is a huge topic here in Cape Town, and I’ve only begun to scratch the surface. This week I learned that South Africa has financial incentives from the government for companies who have non-white executives/leaders. Of the people I’ve chatted with about this, they have white friends who are struggling to climb the ladder within their company because black people are given an advantage between two candidates with the same qualifications. I am really fascinated. The United States has laws in place to prevent discrimination in the hiring and advancement process, and there seems to be a socially accepted movement to create more diverse workplaces. But think about this for a second: we put those laws in place to help minorities gain more representation. Here, white people ARE the minority. They’ve put laws in place to make sure the majority of people advance. Without making false conclusions, I chalk this up to a fear that white people will monopolize the economy. On the other hand, someone I chatted with noted that it is a slight misconception that white people here are the richest, that there are a few really big players that make it seem like white people control the economy and the rest are normal as the rest. Not sure how much I believe it. Very interesting.
  2. Lots of activities surrounding the Parliament happened this week, including a State of the Nation Address at the parliament building a block away from us. As we were warned by our city team, there may be loud noises and the tinder profiles rolling in will likely see an increase in stuffy business men. The happenings were accompanied by regular cannons being shot off and four times, fighter jets flying really low and loudly over the city. No lie, it sounded like a meteor was approaching Earth and this was it. Not sure why they’re necessary for these occasions. Also affected: Uber timing. Roads were blocked and demand was higher, made for some close calls getting back on time.
  3. Wine is really cheap and SO FREAKING good. There are countless vineyards surrounding the city and you could do a tasting spending less than 10 dollars for 5 varieties. Not that I have anything to compare this to in the states but it seems cheap to me! It’s also all made fresh in this region.
  4. Forest fires are pretty common along the mountains surrounding the city. Saw two in one day here. We’ve been told that Cape Town has one of the best fire departments in the world and that people come from the states to train here.
  5. Stands for “This is Africa” and is used when things just don’t go smoothly. Examples include waiting an hour for an Uber, the power going out randomly, the ATM stealing your card.

Week’s Recap:

Starting where we left off, I did stay up for the entire Patriots game which ran from 1-5am local time. I watched in another Remote’s room with four Rams fans. Victory was especially sweet although perhaps the best win was it not going into overtime. SUPER BOWL CHAMPS BABY!! The Uber driver bringing us back that night wished us a good morning and I fell asleep as the sun peeked out.

Monday-

  • Got up to make a meeting about Remote Year’s Positive Impact initiative. Throughout the year, we will be partaking in community service in every city we go to. We will also be doing some fundraising throughout the year to create a fund for our projects. The hour and a half meeting left me feeling empowered and lucky to have so many socially responsible people travelling with me.
  • Took an early afternoon trip to Camp’s Bay beach, on the other side of Table Mountain from the city’s downtown. Stunning beach with Miami vibe shops up and down the coast. The drive to and from along the ridge was just as spectacular.
  • I may or may not have made friends strolling around in my Patriots shirt that I carried halfway across the globe. I’ll answer that, I made none.
  • Work- important to note that yes, I am still working! And I’m really getting the hang of being remote!

Tuesday-

  • Morning run through the Company Gardens. One of the first mornings with no cloud cover on the mountains so I was spoiled with a spectacular view of gardens in the foreground, Table Mountain behind.
  • Tour through Bo-Kaap, the colorful neighborhood I’d previously visited. I anticipated the tour being more of an explanation behind the bright colors but that’s not what we got. The lady leading the tour lived in the area. She explained how tight knit of a community it is, how if someone is sick everyone pitches in to help, and the history of Cape Town that, among other things, led Bo-Kaap to be the Muslim neighborhood it is. She highlighted that within the 1km radius, there were 10 mosques. She then wandered into a conversation about the Muslim traditions and Ramadan and then we ended in a spice shop…? The last twenty minutes were the tour guide raddling off what each spice can cure. “Fennel is good for when someone eats to much broccoli and then blows wind”, who knew!?
  • Caught a protest on the walk back to the apartment. It was a ceremony of beautiful chanting and marching through the busy streets. Truly never heard anything like it. Though different people told us different things, it seemed they were protesting against the president for taking their land and giving it to the rich.
  • Had my first Pick ‘N Pay experience. Just a grocery store in the area, but man, really crowded.

Wednesday-

  • Mid-week peak!! This week the group conquered the Platteklip Gorge trail. Straight uphill climb to the top of Table Mountain. Made it up in an hour and a half, supposedly fast, but honestly wanted to get to the top and rest in some shade after the sunny trail. Breath.taking. views all around. Once at the top, it’s a total plateau that you can wander around to get views of the coast on one side and the city on the other. I took some time away from the group to soak it all in. Also at the top: a café and bar. Naturally some of the group got a beer, but that’s cheating right? Get a beer then take the cable car down? Idk about that. But the cable car was pretty dope.
  • Lunch with another Remote. He’s a lot older than me and not someone I would normally talk to, but it’s always cool to get a different perspective.

Thursday-

  • Camp’s Bay Pipe Track hike. Started at 5:30am and caught the sun peeping up and through Lion’s Head. Absolutely stunning hike, following long black pipes along a ridge before a steep ascent. Tripped over a dried, dead dassie (rodent-looking animal here), gross. Trail led us to the 12 Apostles route that featured a cliff overhanging a ridge to the ocean. I meaann c’mon.
  • Headed to the Cloud 9 rooftop pool after lunch for a hangout. Some people brought work to do and it had to be the most ‘Instagram-worthy’ image that you’d see for someone advertising Remote work. Drink in hand, beautifully blue pool, mountain backdrop.
  • Work work work
  • First Thursday! Some say that this is a day for everyone to spend the first month’s pay check on getting smashed, but First Thursday is also a day every month where the art galleries along the main streets open their doors for visitors and drinks. One art piece that we saw was a lady standing on a pedestal covered in band-aids. Each band-aid was supposed to represent a woman in South Africa who’d been sexually assaulted, pretty powerful. The art viewing slowly turned into an all-out party along Long Street, including an outdoor tent/club area. ‘Twas a late night. Does anyone work here on Fridays??

Friday-

  • As per the night before, slow morning. The cloudy weather agreed.
  • Went grocery shopping. Had an interesting man jump at me on the street, didn’t do anything but kind of freaky.
  • First day since I’d arrived that I didn’t check something off and man, I needed it.

Saturday-

  • Track day! A Remote Year sponsored event that happens once a month and is included in our monthly fee.
  • Drive along the coast towards Betty’s Bay, stunning cliff coastlines and another sunny day. 15ish people on tour.
  • Meet our hosts for the day, Ronel and Billy, two locals who own a coworking B+B and have a passion and knowledge beyond words for what they do.
  • Walk along the boardwalk to see the penguins at Betty’s Bay (!!!!). They were adorable.
  • While walking back to the vans, I asked Billy if he was coming with us in the van. He said no, he was taking his buggy. Naturally, I asked “do you have extra room?” BEST QUESTION EVER. Billy had built his own beach buggy out of an ATV’s wheels and parts and a Volkswagon beetle’s body. Three of us squished in the back seat and had an EPIC ride from one beach to another. Seriously, this thing was so cool.
  • Landed at a second beach where Ronel and Billy taught us about the plants and then how to dig for periwinkles. We were only allowed to take a certain amount per person because they limit it for preservation reasons.
  • Side note: Billy was one of the most amazing humans I’d ever met. He was soft spoken, but once prompted, could eloquently explain his beliefs. He and his wife have a vision for living solely off the food they produce, including fishing regularly and building out his greenhouse. In addition to being resourceful, they are amazing home cooks and even placed in the top 5 on a “Braai Master” cooking competition. They were the last remaining team that wasn’t professionally trained. His passion for his easy lifestyle was inspiring. Billy is also involved in a newly developed NGO in a nearby township that is helping the population there gain access to the food they need. He also shared a snip-it of his trip to Madagascar where he described the poverty as the worst he’d ever seen. He then spoke to his general life beliefs that South African men are perpetuating old views of dominance over women, that more people need to value positive change, and that education could be stronger in the country to phase out these dated ways of thinking. Billy and his wife are continuing to develop their Nomad’s Land place and enjoy hosting Remote Year groups that come through.
  • Lunch and hangout at Nomad’s Land. Billy braai’d (the South African equivalent of a barbeque, kind of) some fish that he’d speared in the past couple days and paired it with a yummy grain mix, salad, and bread with fresh strawberry jam from their garden. I ate some of the fish but realllyy don’t like the salt watery taste ahh!
  • Then learned to cook the periwinkles. Process: Boil periwinkles to kill them, remove periwinkle from its shell using a needle, remove the mouth and intestines (mind you, these things are small), once all are deshelled, run through a mincer twice. With the minced periwinkle, we mixed in some eggs, breadcrumbs, and onions and made little patties. Billy then fried them in the outdoor stone oven. (He made a GF version, too) They tasted…interesting. Kind of like lentil patties or something.
  • Ride home after a long day, with more spectacular views of the ocean.
  • An always entertaining game of Never Have I Ever to close the night.

Sunday-

  • The day I learned to embrace second level fun.
  • Set out early with a local and three other Remotes to meet up with more locals for a hike called ‘Suicide Gorge’. It’s supposedly an 8 hour expedition in and out of many waterfalls in the mountains. So we were prepared with dry bags, extra clothes, sunscreen…everything but rain jackets and wet suits. As soon as we hit the mountains it was pouring rain and cold. After admiring some baboons crossing the road it was a “now, what?” moment.
  • The group of 10 of us spun around and regrouped at a local coffee shop. Next plan: go to Stellenbosch for a different, shorter hike to a waterfall.
  • Decide to take a detour to “jump rock”, a 13m cliff jump into the ocean that you have to know about to find. The locals that we were with did the jump no problem, us Americans had a harder time being convinced to take the leap. Not wanting to badly represent, I took one for the team. Well, I landed badly and completely knocked the wind out of myself. I clamored back up the rock but proceeded to practically pass out from the pain. Only later would I find out I bruised my entire body, in the moment I was convinced I broke something. Luckily, I have the most AMAZING people with me and they got me ice, meds, and Gatorade. No hiking to be had though…
  • So round 2 of regrouping and we land on a local wine tour! Calling this level two fun, when something doesn’t go as planned but ends up being EPIC.
  • Start at Avontuur Wine Estate and do a pairing: five wines with five assorted nougats and fudges.
  • Travel to one of our new friend’s houses, no joke on its own vineyard. We are driving along and take a turn into a private road, wind through rows and rows of vines to this small house with the most breathtaking view of the mountains and valley. Not to mention the weather was perfectly sunny and warm! Ahhh
  • Next stop, Stellenbosch the city. Check out a dorm of the university there, see downtown and learn about the life in this small college town in the middle of wine country.
  • Lunch and more wine tastings: a red, white, and rosé at Postcard Café. Again, un-freaking-real views! And the best company! Got a chance to chat with the South Africans about their thoughts of America (mostly embarrassment) and differences between our lifestyles. Maybe a few laughs as well.
  • Small dinner downtown before heading home. What a wild, long, incredible day. One for the mems for sure.

Can’t wait for what next week will bring! Maybe a lion or two…