My First Day in South Africa

Before even leaving America, I specifically chose a window seat so that I could sleep against the side of the plane for the nine hour plane ride to London Heathrow and my ass gets on the plane to find that my seat is SO far back on the plane that the walls bow outwards and there is a solid two-foot gap between my seat and the side of the plane… all the stress of securing a window seat for quite literally nothing. Go figure.

But things picked up once I arrived in London. It would’ve been dumb of me to not have fish and chips with mushy peas, even if I was only in London for a ten hour layover. I also took full advantage of being in 18+ drinking territory and had my fair share of wine.

Later that night, I came barreling down the terminal to finally meet a few people from the CISabroad program for the first time. We quickly made acquaintances and found ourselves at a bar. We may have nearly missed our flight after I introduced them to espresso martinis BUT, nonetheless, we were feeling good for our 12 hour plane ride to follow (aside from the fact that the plane was a real piece of shat: I couldn’t figure out how to keep this little plastic thing from covering the air vent so I just broke it off… whoopsies! Granted, I was not about to sweat my butt off for the entire flight so British Airways, that’s on y’all)

The pilot may have needed to take the Landing 101 class again, but we survived and finally arrived in Cape Town, South Africa. We could finally say that we set foot on the continent of AFRICA. #Wild. Customs went more smoothly than I would have ever thought. Our driver who picked us up from the airport told us it was the coldest temperature Cape Town had been since he could remember (55F) and that they were experiencing “the worst storm in 50 years.” At first we thought he was being dramatic — it was literally just windy with some moderate fog covering Table Mountain and I was comfortable wearing shorts and a tank top. But as the day progressed, we experienced just how bad the rain truly was. It would come and go as if somebody threw a cup of water in your face and then kept walking (but would also turn back around to laugh at you). So naturally we assumed the worst and thought “Wow, this is what the next nine weeks are going to be like? What did we get ourselves into?” I knew it was winter in the southern hemisphere and that the winter months were South Africa’s rainy season, but apparently I chose to ignore those facts — especially since 90% of the clothes in my suitcase were meant for warmer weather.

I was delivered to my house in the suburb of Observatory all by myself with absolutely no explanation or introduction. Some of my housemates had been there for months prior, some were leaving in just two weeks time, all were from different countries; quite an eclectic group of people. Meanwhile, I couldn’t even figure out which key opened my damn bedroom door; I literally was handed a key chain with 8 different keys and was given absolutely no explanation as to which key unlocked what.

Soon the other CIS Intern who was going to be living with me, Courtney (soon-to-be best friend), showed up and someone from the housing company finally gave us a tour of the house. My bedroom had a window to the living room for whatever reason? But the house was actually really fun – it had beautiful tile artwork on the floor, there was a large living room with a TV, we had a pool table, we had a nice kitchen with appliances, and we had an in-home washer and dryer (which came in clutch later on). There were, however, eight of us living in a house with only two bathrooms – one of which didn’t have hot water, so RIP. (I wanted to do a whole “MTV Cribs” moment at one point but unfortunately never came around to making that happen)

Courtney and I later took a walk to the local grocery store for lunch which left us with very few options we were comfortable with at the same time. We tried our luck with the most basic sandwiches possible (don’t worry, we were much braver when it came to trying new foods throughout our stay).

Later that night, we met up at Tigerlily’s house (another CIS Intern, another soon-to-be best friend). Once we got there, we entertained the idea of ordering a pizza for delivery for dinner but realized we had no way to call and order it since we hadn’t set up our local SIM cards yet… Then we realized Tiger didn’t even have a key to her house gate so we quite literally couldn’t leave or come into the house… And to top it all off, neither Uber nor Uber Eats were in service due to the torrential downpour rain… So ultimately we ended up calling our CIS onsite director Pasqual to order us pizza on her South African phone so that we would be able to actually eat dinner on our first night in Observatory (while being locked in our house, but hey! you can’t win them all). She was so incredibly sweet and helpful and it made for a we’ll-laugh-about-this-later bonding moment: We had somehow managed to survive our first day in Africa!

*Until Courtney and I got back to our house and tried to shower — with the towels we were told not to bring because we could “get them when you get to Cape Town,” meanwhile, apparently not a single store in Observatory sold bath towels!? So what did we settle for? Shamwows. SHAM. WOWS. And at the time I wasn’t sure if we had hot water or not, and maybe it was just cause I was using “the bad bathroom” of the two, but when I say I nearly froze to death… I had a full Jack at the end of the Titanic moment. The water was literally frigid – and then I realized all of the windows were open too! I mean come on. You mean to tell me it was “the coldest it has ever been in South Africa” and everyone has all the windows open? (Come to find out later that nearly everybody does this in South Africa which made for a chilly summer.)

But yes, we did in fact survive our first day in Africa after all.

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