Greetings from Cape Town! I have only been here about a week and a half and already I am in love with this city. It feels like some of my favorite U.S. cities—Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles (the good parts)— all rolled into one. I love that I am surrounded by the mountains on one side and the ocean on the other; I love that there are palm trees everywhere, but also that there is more forested land just outside the city, as well as rolling vineyards; I love that there is good food and good wine and good beer; I love that there is culture and history; and I love that the atmosphere is very laid back and that the people are friendly.
I am living in Salt River, an up and coming area nestled between Observatory and Woodstock, and about a 20 minute bus ride from the city center. I choose to describe it as industrial/urban chic—the neighborhood is filled with brightly colored houses pressed closely together, many in need of a little TLC, the main roads are lined with warehouses (some of which still operate as such, while others have been converted to businesses and some living units), and there are a number of furniture stores in the area, both selling newer pieces as well as refurbishing older items. I am living with a lovely couple, Ralf and Ismail. Ralf is originally from Germany, Ismail from South Africa, and they just moved back here in January after spending 12+ years in London. They are warm and welcoming, and have provided me greater insight into life in South Africa.
In the few days I had before work began, as well as the weekend in between, I attempted to acquaint myself with this city as much as possible. I spent one day wandering the streets of Observatory, Woodstock, and Salt River, getting to know my neighborhood a bit better, and another day wandering from the V & A Waterfront down past Green Point and Sea Point, communities located right on the water, and took in the sights along the promenade. On another day I decided to play the role of the tourist, and rode around on top of the double decker bus for five hours, teeth chattering, as I explored the city center loop, the mini-peninsula tour, and journeyed up to the base of Table Mountain. The last two Saturday mornings were spent at the Old Biscuit Mill, a series of warehouses that have been converted to a number of adorable artsy shops selling everything from pottery and local crafts to clothing and furniture, as well as a number of nicer restaurants. Every Saturday morning they convert the parking lot and parking shed into a giant food festival replete with a wide assortment of foods and dozens of locally crafted brews and wines. And this past weekend I checked out two of the many museums, the District 6 Museum (a museum that recounts the history of this vibrant community before its people were removed and the buildings were torn down by the government as part of their segregation efforts) and the Jewish Museum.
I have been introduced to new sights, sounds, and ways of doing things—i.e. “load shedding” (regular blackouts for two hours at a time), doing laundry in winter (where clothes take multiple days to dry on the line due to the cold and rainy weather, or are in danger of taking flight due to the driving wind), the morning call to prayer from the mosque a block away (that greets me bright and early each day), that most everything closes very early here (cafes and shops are closed by 5 on weekdays, 2 on Saturdays, and closed all day Sunday), and the consistently inconsistent buses. In spite of the occasional challenge (and the surprisingly cold weather), I am thoroughly enjoying getting to know the city that I get to call home for the next two and a half months!