When we arrived, the IAPO (International Academic Programs Office) people (called green shirts because of their distinctively visible lime green uniform t-shirts) brought us from the airport to Kopano, a vacation dormitory on the lower UCT campus. The rooms are a touch rudimentary, with bare wood furnishings, a padlock for your door, and a surprisingly comfortable cot. The toilets smell like toilets. The walls are quite thin. Still, each room is a single occupant, so my first couple nights did not need to navigate sharing a sleeping space with a stranger. Small blessings.
While preparing for this trip, I applied for my housing through Ida Cooper Associates. Ida Cooper is the grand dame of student accommodation in Cape Town. Her minions, a wonderfully friendly and helpful bunch, have been taking us around to get our bearings, set up cell phones, take those who need it to currency exchanges, and the like. It turns out, to my surprise, that Ida only contracts with certain foreign universities...it explains why I was pulled away from the pack of UW and UofM students I arrived with to go do other things. It is a bit like receiving the VIP treatment among the internationals.
So, Lynray, Kaveh, Sita, Adam, Jez, and Menzi have been doing this marvelous job getting us situated.
This morning we will be moved out of Kopano to our semester housing arrangements.
Yesterday, those of us who had already arrived the day before were taken on a brief walking tour of Cape Town. Along the way, we were given some history as well as tips for operating in South Africa. We took the train into the city, something that is alright in the daytime, but otherwise considered to be unsafe. We walked through the Company Gardens, the original Dutch settlement established here as a provisioning station for the Dutch East India Company's trade with Indonesia. This is also the location of many of Cape Town's government buildings such as the Parliament Building and the Tuynhuys (the presidential offices).
|Surreptitious snap of folks snacking
|A fruit vendor
We strolled Long Street and broke for lunch. Although our guide recommended a burger joint, Menzi took some of us over to the Eastern Food Bazaar...a magical covered alley of India, Middle Eastern, and Chinese food stalls. It may be too soon to have a favorite place in the city, but this will certainly rank.
By far the best meal I have had since arriving (and obviously beating out each meal consumed in airports or flights en route). Afterwards, we had a few minutes to stroll around Green Market Square, a former slave market that now serves as a fruit and flea market surrounded by cafes. Acrobats and musicians performed along the edges. Beggars worked some sad stories in search of a few Rand. Vendors tried multiple times to hard sell their range of crafts, including wood carvings, paintings, bead encrusted animal sculptures, and t-shirts.
Fortunately, I was not buying. We then left for the taxi stand, found at the rear end of another flea market on the roof of the train station. All of this, while we caught glimpses of Table Mountain, Devil's Peak, and Lion's Head leaning against the pressing cloud cover of this cooler day.
We had a gentle afternoon to ourselves before all of the Ida Cooper students convened for dinner in the suburb of Observatory at a restaurant called Trenchtown. I had the spiciest pizza I have ever consumed, and as I told Al (the van driver) it was the best pizza I have ever had in Africa. He had a good laugh and then proceeded to talk about a couple things in an accent I could not decipher.
While I was able to take a walk and identify a close intersection, I have not yet been to the house where I will be living. It is somewhere up this road at the intersection of Grotto and Lovers Walk.