U-S-A U-S-A U-S-A
The great US of A. The country of baseball, hot dogs, Shark Week, the Imperial System of Measurement and Donald Trump (unfortunately). America seems to think that we are smarter, and thereby better, than everyone else. I think we have a slight ego problem from that whole “first man to walk on the moon” ordeal.
I have found a deal of humor in the questions I get asked about America and our stereotypes. My favorite so far: “Is it true that Walmart has electric scooters because people are too fat to walk?” I was honest. I said, “yes. That’s why I shop at Target.”
People laughed at me for not knowing what an electric kettle was. The fact that these are not widely accepted in The US proves that we are not the smartest. They’re brilliant. Conversations get confusing when I am the only one in the room who uses degrees Fahrenheit when talking about temperature. I had a heck of a time explaining the concept of “space heaters” versus “central heating.” My co-workers kept asking, “but where does the heat in the vents come from?” Talking about trivial cultural differences has become one of my favorite things to do. It fascinates me.
The problems arise with the bigger, more serious cultural differences. The differences that lead to confusion, frustration and guilt. The more time I spend here, the more apparent these differences become.
Last Wednesday we took 4th and 5th grade students from Lalela on a Graffiti tour throughout Woodstock. Lalela is a nonprofit that provides art education to at-risk youth. It is where my housemate, Alicia, interns. Most of these kids live in the Hout Bay Township and have never been to Cape Town before. It was neat to watch them interact with each other, and they seemed to really enjoy the tour.
RC Celebrates FB
On Friday we had a staff meeting in Khayelitsha. We had a mini celebration for the Facebook page getting over 10,000 likes. I am proud to have been a part of this milestone event.
Over the weekend we went to Robben Island. The first half of the trip, a bus tour around the island, dragged on a little bit. The second half of the tour was spent inside the prison. Our tour guide was a former prisoner of Robben Island. We got to see a group cell and he explained their daily routine. The tour ended with a viewing of Nelson Mandela’s cell. We are in the middle of planning our Mandela Day Event at work, which made the tour even more relevant. Seeing the cell and hearing the history gave me a good sense of perspective and gave me a better understanding as to why the holiday is so important.
I’m not going to lie. The last week and a half has been a bit of a struggle. The novelty of Cape Town has worn off and reality has set in. I feel like I am always in a bad mood, and can be a downer for my housemates to be around. It is tiring, being in an unfamiliar place, with no sense of comfort. I don’t have my friends and family with me. I can’t come home after a bad day and curl up and watch Netflix to escape for a few hours. All things that I take for granted back home.
Having my first experience with street crime didn’t help matters. It did put me in a funk that I have not been able to shake. I did everything right. I was walking down a busy street in the middle of the day. I didn’t have my phone out. I had a small purse that was across my body and zipped. But because I am a white female, who was walking alone, I was pegged as an easy target. The boys who tried to rob me could not have been more than 13 years old. I was lucky, in the sense that I wasn’t hurt and nothing was taken from me.
I like Cape Town. In theory. I love waking up and looking at Table Mountain every morning. I love that every weekend feels like a new adventure. But I struggle a lot with street crime and the blatant disrespect for women. When those kids tried to rob me, not a single person tried to help me. Everyone just kept walking, because it is so normal. That irks me to the core. I hate having to live in a constant state of fear. I can’t walk to work without at least one “man” approaching me and saying something inappropriate. I always ignore them, primarily out of fear. I tell myself not to let it bother me, but it does.
I keep focusing on my work. I love my job (most days) and love spending my weekends exploring Cape Town with the other interns. I get frustrated and homesick, but I’m trying not to wish away my time here. Stay tuned for next week’s blog. I’ll be detailing my bungee jump and shark dive excursion!
- Washing your hands after you use the toilet is (apparently) optional.
- Instead of saying “fingers crossed,” South Africans say “thumbs pressed.”
- The undercut trend has not yet made its way to South Africa which results in me getting a lot of weird looks.