Home away from home.

The week back from Spring break was tough.

Instead of writing my paper due the next Monday, or starting on my huge EGS paper that I had 3 weeks to write, or starting my history paper that I had 2 weeks to complete, I took it easy. It’s only once in your life you’re a student abroad. I went to Kirstinbosch Gardens one evening, went out to eat, went out and enjoyed Cape Town.

Friday night, I joined the majority of the CIEE students on a bus to go down to Ocean View, a township, where most of us were doing a home stay for the weekend. We had a welcome dinner in the community center and met the families we’d be staying with. I, however, left after dinner to go back to Cape Town as my grandma was flying in that night! I got back to Forest Hill and waited for a text from Tommy, my mom’s cousin who was on the trip to South Africa as well, telling me they had landed. The original plan was that I was to go meet them at their hotel at the Waterfront that night, but when they didn’t get to the hotel until 11, I decided to let them rest after traveling and that I would see them early the next morning.

At 6:30 am I was in a cab on the way through the city center and to the Waterfront to meet my grandma, Tommy and Sally (another one of my mom’s cousins) for breakfast. I got out at the hotel and sat on a bench waiting for them to show. Soon, I spotted Tommy walking across the courtyard. A familiar face! I welcomed him to South Africa, got a hug and he took me to see my grandma. We were walking across another courtyard when she exited the building in front of us. Never in a million years would I ever have thought I’d be with my grandma in Cape Town, South Africa. I gave her a huge hug and was introduced to all her new friends. We got some breakfast and headed out to the day’s activities.

I wasn’t allowed on the tour bus for liability issues, so I headed up to Table Mountain in a cab. The cab driver must have assumed I was a newbie, because he told me the fare up to the cable car was R100 but that he was going to give me a discount of R90. I laughed and stated that I had just gotten a cab from the southern suburbs that morning for R80 and that I was in no way going to pay that much for a cab up to Table Mountain from the Waterfront. He tried telling me that it’s further than it looks, but I told him I’d pay R50. We bargained back and forth a bit and I settled on R65. Cab drivers.

I got my first ticket for the cable car since being here and waited while sitting on the railing looking out at the spectacular city. Quite some time went by as the tour’s schedule had gotten mixed up, but I didn’t mind soaking in the warm sun and enjoying the view in front of me. Once the tour had arrived, we moved towards the cable car, my grandma introducing me to everyone. Apparently she had mentioned me to many already, and they all greeted me as if we were old friends. “How cool is it that you get to see your granddaughter while here?!” Well, it’s just as cool seeing your grandma, trust me. We piled into the cable car and took off towards the top of one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.

At the top we walked around, looking out at the most spectacular views. Mimi declared the drop offs made her feel dizzy but she got right up to the edge. It’s not every day you get to be with your grandma on Table Mountain… The group wandered around, following the tour guide. We took a group picture at one point but soon had to go back down the cable car so they could continue on their tour.

As they left, I jumped in a cab back down to the Waterfront to wait. I ended up at Mitchell’s sitting by myself and ordering a beer and nachos. Time passed. I sat, watching people. Then the waitress came up and informed me the loud people at a table on the other side of the outdoor seating had invited me to sit with them. Without any excuse not to, I got up, carried over my nachos and joined. They were the most interesting characters I have come across in Cape Town. Absolutely ridiculous. At one point, they offered to take me for a spin on their motorbikes and I laughed, saying that was the last thing I was about to do. We sat there for a few hours, them cracking jokes, telling me what I should do in Cape Town and I, slightly uncomfortable, sat and listened. Two hours later than expected I was saved by the bell of my text tone. It was time to go meet back up with my grandma. I don’t regret accepting the invitation; it was quite the entertainment.

I found some of the tour group wandering around the Waterfront looking for a place to eat and I guided them towards the row of restaurants. They found one that suited them and requested to sit inside, as the sun was quite hot. We enjoyed a late lunch and I had become the tour guide. Everything they wanted to know, they asked. How safe is the water to drink? (Perfectly safe.) What is this dish? (I haven’t the slightest clue.) What’s the exchange rate? (Just divide everything by 8, it’s about that.) Questions to which I never would have an answer to were directed at me and I tried my best to answer.

After eating, we headed back outside and Mimi and Sally wanted to find lighter weight shirts for the rest of their trip, as it was much hotter than they had expected. To be fair, it was the hottest day I had experienced since being here. We went to Cape Union Mart, a REI type of store, and they found just what they wanted. We wandered about but soon headed back to the hotel so they could put their feet up before they had to leave at 6:15 for dinner. Mimi and I somehow found our way back when neither of us knew where the hotel was. I said goodbye as they headed out. I was going to see them the next evening.

The next day was beautiful but as I had spent my Saturday at the Waterfront with strangers, I had to work on my paper due Monday. Around 6 I got a text from Tommy telling me to head down to the Waterfront to meet up with Mimi. I immediately called a cab, got ready and went out to wait for the cab. We had dinner at the hotel and then retired to her room where we spent hours talking. I got to solve plug adapter problems, camera problems and outlet problems (you just turn the switch on) for everyone on the tour. She showed me pictures of her day which consisted of a tour down the Cape Peninsula. We talked about my mom and how she had moved to Australia in her 20s. All the talk about moving overseas got me thinking… If my mom could do it, so could I. (I’ll continue this tangent later.) We finally had to start saying goodbye as the clock kept ticking away. Late into the night I gave my final hug and goodbye to Mimi and walked out front to catch a cab home.

The silhouette of the mountains on my right and the lights of the city behind me, I couldn’t stop thinking about my mom shipping off on her own across the world when she was barely older than I am. Maybe I could stay for another semester… After all, I have fallen in love with this country.



One Response to “Home away from home.”

  1. Hey Rachael, it sounds like you’re having an awesome time abroad. It’s pretty rad that you didn’t let that cab driver gip you. As a former study abroad peer advisor, I would sincerely suggest extending your time for another semester (if you can). I wish I had studied abroad for a year. A semester is just not enough.


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