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May, 2011

  1. Seasonal relief

    May 28, 2011 by Kaitlin

    My first week in Cape Town, I felt great.

    Week two, just as I was starting work, I started feeling not-so-great. I blame this on three things.

    1. Suddenly switching from and LA summer to an SA winter.

    2. Cigarette smoke. You’re allowed to smoke pretty much everywhere here, and people do. Hello long-forgotten allergies!

    3. The musty swamp smell that pervades our apartment. I fear it comes from a mold colony I’m convinced is hiding in our walls.

    Nothing major symptoms-wise, but constant coughing, nose-blowing, and randomly watery eyes just don’t lend themselves to conducting good radio interviews.

    Sweet, sweet relief (fingers crossed)

    But, I might have found relief. I talked to a nice pharmacist at a tacky souvenir shop on Long Street (because it totally makes sense to have a drug store in there too, right?), and he hooked me up with some Clarinese. I think it’s like Claratin, but way cheaper, and thus far, actually working (breathing through your nose is fun!). Check with me again in 10 days and I’ll let you know about long-term effectiveness.


  2. Cape Town as small town

    May 28, 2011 by Kaitlin

    Everyone told me it would be like this.

    “Cape Town is such a small town.”

    “It’s so easy to learn your way around.”

    “You’ll be running into people you know all the time.”

    Everyone told me, but I still doubted. Until last night. Or actually, the night before.

    One of my coworkers was performing some of her poetry at an artists’ night at a Ragazzi’s, a bar with a coffeeshop vibe that you have to enter through a stairway in the back of an African curio shop. Her performance was great, and on our way out, I ran into Dylan Valley, a Capetonian filmmaker who screened his documentary Afrikaaps at one of our class sessions.

    Turns out that Dylan is friends with Yumna, another one of my coworkers who was also there watching Nina perform. So that was fun.

    Then, yesterday after work, the whole CRF crew headed to Neighbourhood on Long Street for happy hour. Several hours later (I guess it was more like a happy hours), I came back to our apartments where Sarah G. had invited some of her coworkers from Bush Radio to come and hang out. Her coworkers brought friends and I think some of those friends brought friends, so there was quite the scene going by the time I arrived. After some more socializing (including an awesome discussion with a guy from Angola about what we were doing the night Obama was elected and what it meant to our respective communities), we headed back out to Long Street, where someone knew about a club that was supposed to be playing great house music. Turns out this “club” was Ragazzi’s, the same place that one night before had a vibe somewhere between funky bookstore and independent coffee shop.

    The next stop was Space Bar, further down Long Street, a smokey, crowded, cheesy flashing lights-filled joint I hope never to return to. On the way out, I’m standing on the sidewalk, waiting for the rest of the group, and someone comes up from behind me and taps me on the shoulder. There was Nina and Mike, coworkers I had left several hours earlier with a “See ya Monday!” I guess Monday was just too far away for Cape Town. Not 20 seconds later, Kondwani and his cousin come bouncing down the same sidewalk. There were happy shrieks and hugs galore.

    Maybe it’s not so hard to learn your way around here after all.

    I could just scoop you up and take you home.


  3. Not bad, for a lunch break

    May 26, 2011 by Kaitlin

    Every Thursday, there’s a market that goes on in St. George’s Mall, which is less like a mall and more like a pedestrians-only boulevard.

    Earth Fair Market

    I met my roommate Mary Beth there–she works at the Cape Argus, and the market is just about in between our offices. It was a great vibe–there was all kinds of food, live music, and people sitting on hay bales.

    After some wandering, we decided on tikka masala pitas (gotta love the Indian influence here) and some juice made from about eight different kinds of fruits and veggies.

    omg, spicy


    On my way back, I ran into a group of protestors chanting, “What do we want?” “Housing!” “What do we need?” “Housing!”

    Shouting demands for better housing

    So on one side of the street you had this vocal, animated march, and on the other side, employees from the Taj Hotel were standing calmly outside in their uniforms, hands clasped cooly in front of their bellies, not reacting at all.

    My coworker Nina said protests are quite common near our office because Parliament is just around the corner. Speaking of things that are nearby, here’s the view from my office window on this beautiful day.

    View from the third floor of 6 Spin Street

  4. Foreign faces and front desk run-ins

    May 26, 2011 by Kaitlin

    Yesterday I stopped by a friend’s apartment building and chatted briefly with the woman working security at the front desk. On my way out, the same woman stopped me and said, “You’re not from around here are you?”

    Indeed I’m not. The American accent is a dead giveaway, right? But the woman said she hadn’t even noticed my accent, it was my face.

    “What about my face?”

    “It’s foreign. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s just not from here.”

    At that point, I think I said “Thank you?” and shuffled away, even though that’s not what I meant to say at all. I’m not sure what sentiment I wanted to express—it wasn’t anger, but it wasn’t thanks either. Perhaps confusion. In a place with so many races and combinations of races, it’s funny that a particular face could look foreign.

    The brief encounter reminded me of an earlier conversation I had with the Andy, the man who works the front desk at my own apartment building. Andy is an Afrikaner who has worked in the same building for over 40 years. He’s a jolly-looking fellow who greets me every morning and wishes me, “Good day, lovey!”

    We spoke just after I moved in and he told me about his job, his commute, his breakfast and his kids. He’s quite chatty. In the course of our first conversation, he mentioned that he had two kids in the States and two in UK. I asked him if he missed having his kids nearby and he said he did, but he didn’t blame them for leaving.

    “Oh, they all left when the government changed hands in ’94.”

    That would be the end of apartheid.

    “After that, there were just no jobs for people like us.”

    It took me a minute to realize what he meant by “like us,” but then I noticed he was subtly stroking his cheek, as if to indicate white skin.

    I’m still deciding what to make of the moment.