Chapter 2 – “No, I’m not American” (July 5th/6th)

What a peculiar moment!

It felt like, at the same time, I was both at the very end of my journey and at the very beginning. It felt really good to be welcomed by people from UCT at the airport – finally, I didn’t have to take care of things anymore! I met a couple other international students at the airport. Weirdly enough, I met two Swiss girls who would stay in the same house as me, and an Australian girl who would be accommodated just down the road from where I would be living.

All the international students stayed on campus for the first night and we were then brought to the separate houses in the morning. The first thing I learned about this exchange program is that probably two-thirds of all students came from the United States! They are simply everywhere! And 95% of them talk the same, look the same, live together in all-American houses…crazy! Now, since I obviously don’t have a British, Australian or South African accent, people frequently approached me by asking: “Are you American? Are you from the States?” – these were the moments where I decided I should pick up a South African accent as soon as possible!! 🙂

That’s why I am so happy with the house I am living in, for we’re truly international: Two Norwegian girls, two Swiss girls, one Danish girl, two American boys, an American engaged couple and myself – 5 nationalities! I really can’t stress enough how grateful I am for this! But this isn’t the only upside of where I live. We are not living in an apartment, we have a house! With a huge living room and kitchen, and a backyard with, yes, a fireplace for braai (South African barbecue)! The neighborhood is really good and safe, and we have an amazing view on Table Mountain.

When I moved into my room, it hit me – you’re a Capetonian now!

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First impression

First impression

Chris Sanchez took this wonderful picture of Table Mountain from the campus of Bishops in 2007.

The Journey of Good Hope

My dear friends,

These are the baby steps of my first very own blog. I created it to keep you all updated, to give you an insight into my life even though I will be very far away for a considerable amount of time. But my motives are not entirely altruistic. Partly, I will be writing this blog for myself, since it helps to reflect on experiences that imprint on you. Surely, I will mature as a person, as well as in the field of academics.

As you all know, it has been my dream for years to return to Cape Town, which I sincerely consider to be the most beautiful place on earth. However, God doesn’t give with both hands. South Africa is facing severe and profound issues:

12% of the population is HIV positive, which is no less than 5.7 million people in absolute numbers! Approximately 50 people are murdered each day. It is estimated that about 500,000 women are raped each year, what makes South Africa the “rape capital of the world”. 25% of the people are unemployed.

Nonetheless, I chose this country to be my host and my home for the coming months. When I visited South Africa, I didn’t feel like a stranger or a tourist. It felt like coming home. Never before have I encountered such haunting beauty, such overwhelming friendliness, such a deeply touching history and heritage.

In 1990, (the year of my birth), Nelson Mandela was released from prison, after 27 year of incarceration during the Apartheid regime. It would have been easy, and somewhat understandable, for him to take revenge. To choose the path of violence and leading this beautiful country into death, destruction and misery that comes with civil war. But he chose the path of forgiveness, reconciliation and hope.

Therefore, the title of my blog is Journey of Good Hope, since it reveals the ambivalence of this country, but at the same time my deep admiration for it.

And on a slightly brighter note, in case you miss me at some point, worry not, I will be back sooner than you wish :). So lean back and let yourselves be entertained by my stories and pictures. Many of you will receive postcards, small presents or the occasional bottle of fantastic South African wine. Let the preparations begin.