Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Welcome to Hell-ton!

I have to write on Word, then copy and paste at work, so this may be slow going. ;) But here is a little from when I first got here, the first and second day, and a tiny bit of the third... (Also, apologies for the repetitions, it was written in pieces, clearly...)

Ok, so I will start writing here and then I can copy and paste if I ever get wifi access.

The airports were unreal in how easy they were, both Heathrow and Cape Town. At Heathrow there is a huge middle area with restaurants, shops and bars and a shit-ton of seats. This is where everyone waits, because the gates don’t get announced until 30-40 minutes before departure. You’d better pay attention, too, because the gates are anywhere from 15-25 minutes walking distance. WTF.

Cape Town immigration wasn’t too bad…she did question me a little since I’m there for 30 days, just made sure I had a return ticket, blah blah. I was met and he drove me to the house where I’m staying. It’s chillier inside than out because it’s sunny outside but not in here. The wife is N, she’s quite nice and I did not catch the husband’s name nor can I usually understand him. Awesome. There is also a baby who was introduced as “the baby.” I suspect it’s the eldest daughter’s (?) who I think is 21. Cute baby, in any case.

Our bedroom has two bunk beds. The girl who sleeps on the top bunk above me is M, she is from Leone, France, and teaches at the school down the street. I think she may be 20 tops. She’s also fairly quiet, okay a LOT quiet but I got her to show me the internet cafĂ©.

I also met an American roommate who seems far more sociable (and is my age). When I was at the internet place, the woman asked if M and I were both from France. (There are only 4 computers, all facing her, so I think she saw my Facebook page, which is in French.) I said I was American and she said, “Oh, so you know [insert name here]?” Out of context this is hysterical. “Oh, you’re from Canada, do you know Nadine?” But since I had just met the American roommate at my place, it made sense.

The minibus is totally fucked up. It’s just this really big van that picks people up at unmarked stops (so it’s like a cab? But it has a route?) and you just say something when it gets near your stop I think. I don’t think I’m actually in Cape Town, I think I’m just outside? I don’t know. Because M was saying the train goes to Cape Town and it’s the last stop. I hope this makes sense later.

Also, for the record, it is goddamn fucking freezing in the house at night. Holy jesus. It has to be warmer outside. And there is one bathroom. There are four of us in this room and I think there are two guys in another room out back and another girl, plus the four daughters, though I think I’ve only seen 2 or 3. But at least, what, 11 people and one bathroom? Ok, apparently the guys have their own. Whatever.

Ok, it’s the second day and things are much better. I am rapidly getting used to the minibus. It is sort of like a taxi, and anyway it’s only 5 rand, which is less than a dollar. Sold. Although it can get kinda full, to say the least.

Today I was picked up by a staff member from the main office who took me to the headquarters. I actually had a lot of time to kill while we waited for the other volunteer, so I knocked out most of my persuasive writing portfolio that’s due by Monday. I was kinda freaking out about wifi (cause I had to get it off my laptop), so this was beautiful.

I met a bunch of people who work in the office there, and they were all very mellow and friendly. A buffet of nationalities to say the least.

The other volunteer finally arrived, a guy from England (I forget where, but London-ish) who is volunteering with schools doing sports. Human rights really has a social justice and a legal division, and I will be working with the latter, but they sort of go together quite a bit, as you might imagine. So one of the staff members who does the initial induction thing showed us a little around the office neighborhood, including a really giant mall where we had to run a few errands and get lunch.

I bought a phone (which I had to do, but it was cheap, less than $30) and it’s more essential here than in Sweden. They also showed us where to change money. I already had at the airport, but this is the place should I need more, since you don’t always know where’s safe.

We then went to lunch—also in the mall but astonishingly good food. It was just called Burger Gourmet, and guess what they served? But holy shit. First of all, the milkshakes were PHENOMENAL. The guy showing us around was C, he’s from Mexico. I definitely liked him around milkshake time, since I was eying them, but the Brit just wanted a Coke, and C decided on a milkshake. The waitress brought them over, but his was spilling all down the sides and quite messy. She apologized and said she’d get some napkins. He said, “Oh, don’t worry about it. It makes me look dangerous.”

I had the banana milkshake. Again, it gets hard to describe milkshakes using superlatives, but DAMN. Each of the guys had a mushroom burger bigger than your head, and mine was technically a chicken sandwich, but they called it a burger…it was a chicken camembert and cranberry burger. NOM, yo.

Then we went back to the office to meet D, the guy who is the director of the South Africa branch. He’s a really nice guy, seems very approachable. About this time my liaison was occupied elsewhere and they were about to give me options when I cut them off and said, “Yeah, this paper? It’s due Monday and I am totally into hoarding your internet. I can wait for this dude forever.” So not only did that work out, but I got the portfolio submitted. HOORAY. Cause oh holy jesus that was bothering me.

I am definitely not in Cape Town. Cape Town is 30-40 minutes away (by train?) and I’m in Grassy Park, a suburb of Wynberg (wine-berg) which is a suburb of Cape Town. Or something like that anyway. After 7pm you basically just take private taxis everywhere. You order them by phone, and C gave us a list of about seven that know our organization and lots of our host families—my host family has been doing this for 4 years, so they are one of the oldest ones. If you’re at a bar you order one before leaving or if I go to see a movie I would just order one for a specific time for after.

And that mall we were in today? Yup, it has two cinemas. One big one upstairs and one artsy one downstairs. I’m thinking of venturing out tomorrow—while I LOOK FOR A JACKET. Fuck me sweet jesus is it cold here. Mostly in the house but today was so windy…it wasn’t that bad considering how poorly I packed for the weather, but I still want to get a jacket. I have a raincoat, but that really isn’t WARM, y’know?
It will be harder to take pictures because you’re not supposed to carry your camera around or flash it around; I may just use my little one. It’s hard to know which rules are really serious and which ones are over-protective.

Tonight I think I’m getting a cab with a bunch of the girls who live here and going for a drink. I think the two French girls are under 20, but American Girl is my age (actually she’ll be 32 in a month) and there is also a Swedish girl (interestingly, she’s black, which I wouldn’t point out but for the country, ok? I rarely saw anyone who wasn’t even BLONDE in Lund…she’s from Stockholm, though, so WAY bigger than Lund…)

American Girl leaves soon and a couple people are moving in soon who are high school two-week people. Sigh. D was warning me (you know, friendly), that I can’t let them talk me into buying them booze. I laughed and said I wasn’t stupid (and then prayed that didn’t come out wrong). But no way would I buy booze for some kid, are you shitting me? Plus, jesus, does that even sound fun to you? Fuck no!

I was able to resurrect my computer, hooray! But I really do miss the internet at my fingertips in a big, big way. Le sigh. I was able to live without the phone no problem. Internet on the other hand? I think this is worse than not having alcohol in the house.

I do still have a little wine bottle from the plane ride. Saving for an emergency. IT SHOULD BE COLD ENOUGH HERE IN THE ROOM THOUGH, CHRIST. It’s like Veloute’s Vermont garage…

Third Day. I just drank the emergency wine. Going out with the flatmates…somewhere. We basically have a driver, CA, who we call to get picked up and dropped off any/all hours. She really is just a private cab owner, and at induction we were given a list with about ten names who know our program and are very reliable, but C said CA is the best. I rode with her last night when a bunch of us (did I mention French girls? There are, quite literally, a shit-ton of French girls here) went to Zula Bar in Cape Town. It was so not a good bar, but I have at least been to Cape Town now!

We were only there from about 9 to 11, since we wanted to get home at a reasonable hour. I think this is not usually the case. And just for awesomeness, a lot of the girls forgot their ID, so they’re digging around when I pull out my TX license and start to point out where the birth date is. The guy pats my arm and says, “Yeah, don’t worry about it.” !!!!!!!!! Wow, thanks man. Swedish Girl tried to make me feel better by saying, “Yeah, sometimes I think they speak without thinking.” Fucker.

(In retrospect, I forgot and had it pointed out to me that here, like so many places in the rest of the world, you only have to be 18 to drink. I feel slightly less insulted, I suppose.)

Today I bought a jacket for 370RA, more than I wanted to spend, but considering my options were fairly limited, I was happy to get something I kinda liked and that fit. Twenty bucks says I lose the belt by the time I leave.

I piddled around and mostly was just uber impressed with myself for catching a minibus off the street I could tell was going to Wynberg station, then found the other side of the station where the other minibuses were that would take me to Grassy Park. ALL BY MYSELF. That’s right, I’m a big fucking girl and everything.

I was supposed to catch a movie, maybe Toy Story 3, but the girls were going to be late, so I just called it a day and decided to maybe try a double feature tomorrow. Toy Story, The Boys Are Back, Dr. Parnassus are my three best options…I would see Broken Embraces but uh, yeah, that whole Spanish thing. Oh well. The mall has an AMC-type theater upstairs (and no, I am not above seeing Death at a Funeral, thank you very much) and the downstairs has an arthouse theater FTW. Disco.

1 comment:

Corinthian said...

I wish, wish, wish it was easier for you to take pictures!