South Africa #2: Catching the waves of the Cape

Hello again! I finally have a bit of time to put out an update, so I’ll do my best. There has been lots to do here so I have been having trouble finding time to write new posts.

I have a particularly good story from last Friday, actually. I had just finished registering for classes that morning (which is a hectic process completed by everyone on paper because 34% of South Africans don’t have access to the Internet) and was at my apartment checking my phone. I have an instant-messaging app installed called WhatsApp, and in that app I am part of a group chat for all International Students studying at UCT. There are around 400 International Students at UCT, and a bit under 200 of us are in the group chat. As I checked the chat, I noticed there was a message posted from someone asking if anybody would like to go surfing. I had been telling people since the beginning of this trip that learning to surf is one of the things I wanted to do while in South Africa, so since I technically didn’t have anything pressing for the rest of the night, I thought “what the heck” and responded to the chat saying I’d be interested in coming.

Since no other details had been mentioned, I then left with some friends to go grocery shopping, so initially I didn’t have any Internet to check messages and see what was happening in the chat. While out, I was able to connect to some free Wi-Fi and figure out in bits and pieces where people were meeting and at what time. As I was shopping, some others had responded with their interest and decided on a time to meet that wasn’t very much later from when it was now. Realizing I was barely going to make it home in time, I asked for some people to wait for me and got an address of someone’s house who had a ride coming to get them. As soon as I got home, I frantically installed the Uber app (which I had never used before), set up an account, and ordered a ride which said it would arrive in three minutes.  A bit alarmed at how quickly the ride estimated to be there, I threw some clothes, a wetsuit, a towel, and some other items into a bag, put on some swimming shorts under my clothes, and hurriedly threw my groceries wherever they would fit in my tiny kitchen. Then I dashed down the stairs to meet my driver who had just arrived outside.

One quick note about Uber, this is the app that EVERYONE uses to get around in Cape Town. I’ve used it with tourists and with regular Cape Town citizens, and I’ve talked to drivers here in South Africa who drive Uber as a full-time job, sometimes for 10 hours or more a day. It’s one of the safest ways of getting around as well as one of the most reliable as far as arriving somewhere on time.

As the driver dropped me off in a crowded suburb further north in the city, I gazed around at the gated walls to try and pick out the house number my WhatsApp contact had given me. All the houses had a low wall in front of them with large gates protecting the walkways up to houses themselves. When I found the house I was supposed to be at, I realized these gates posed a problem because the one I needed to pass through to approach the front door of the house was locked, and there was no sort of doorbell on the outside wall. I realized the person I had been communicating with over WhatsApp had wanted me to text them when I arrived, but I had no Wi-Fi so there was no for me to do that.

I stood on the sidewalk outside the gate and tried shaking it and knocking on it to make noise, but it was obvious that the sound would not be audible from inside the house when the front door was at least 10 feet away. I found their newspaper sitting in a small cubby in the wall, so I took the roll out, stuck my arm through the gate, and tried to throw the newspaper at the door using my wrist. Unfortunately it fell a little short and just landed on the ground in front of the door, so I looked around for anything else I could use to try again. I considered taking off my shoe and throwing that, but then decided that I didn’t want to seem even more strange to passer-byers than I already did by awkwardly standing outside the gate with one shoe and one sock on. I eventually settled on throwing one of flip-flops from my bag, hoping I could give it a frisbee-like toss to make it hit the door, but to my dismay the flip-flop hardly made it further than the newspaper when I attempted the feat. Out of realistic items to throw, I decided the only thing left to do was wait until they got bored waiting for me and wanted to leave, or until someone happened to come out of the house for another reason.

Not long after I began my game of patience I got lucky and someone did come to the door to let me in! I’m not sure what prompted them to come but they invited me inside and out to their back patio where another girl was sitting and waiting. The girl who let me in was from Holland, and the girl on the patio was from Switzerland, and they informed me that they were still waiting for their ride to arrive who was another international student that none of us had met. The ride did arrive soon, and it turned out to be two guys from Germany who had rented a car for their time here in South Africa. The five of us all piled in and took off down to the coast to a beach called Muzinberg. I enjoyed being a part of a group who were from all over the world but coming together to study — the feeling of having a personal global network is really neat.

When we arrived on the beach, we found a place to rent boards wetsuits for about $7 USD, and then moved down to the ocean. Even though I had brought my own wetsuit to South Africa (that used to be my parents) the thickness of it was too thin for the temperatures of the water when we were going out – It was late afternoon at that point and the water of the Atlantic Ocean was quite chilly (the eastern side of Africa has the warmer water because it is on the Indian Ocean). Only the two girls had surfed before, so they showed us boys the basics of it and we all headed into the water.

I really enjoyed surfing; it was a lot more fun than I expected! We were in the water for about an hour, right up until the time the shop was going to close. I did manage to stand up on the board once! However, as soon as I did so I shouted “I’M DOING IT!” and promptly fell off.

For anyone that actually knows anything about surfing, no this is not the board I surfed with. This was another one from the rack that the guy gave me when I asked him to take a picture of me.

After getting out of the sea and taking a hot shower, the five of us walked down the street and met another group of people who had come to see us at the beach but had arrived a bit too late to surf. The new people consisted of two Australians, a girl from Norway, a guy from Sweden, and a few others. I really hit it off with the Australian guy, and the now-larger group of us went to a little pub for food where the Australian and I got “banana and bacon pizza” (unfortunately, the pizza they made there wasn’t very good, pretty flavorless).

The taste combination wasn’t actually bad, just the way they made their pizzas was what ruined it. It felt like eating plain flour!

Surfing and then hanging out and talking with people for a few hours afterward was one of my favorite memories in Cape Town so far. There have been three sets of plans I’ve made to go surfing with people since then but all of them fell through at the last minute.

I’ll be updating here soon about how everything else is going. I meant to spread these out a bit more because this adventure happened last week, but sometimes life just occurs in inconvenient timing. Thanks to everyone who has been reading these posts and responding! I’m glad to know what I’m writing is being enjoyed by people!

For those of you who would like to pray for me

For the prayerfully inclined, here are some things that

  • Praise that I got to have this great time surfing and meeting people!
  • Praise that I have got to experience so many other fun adventures already.
  • Praise that classes are going well and aren’t too difficult as of yet.
  • Petition that I will find some close community to be a part of while I’m here. I haven’t been able to find anybody I really closely connect with and get to see often.

Thank you for all your prayers so far, I know they are being heard!

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2 thoughts on “South Africa #2: Catching the waves of the Cape

  1. Okay, I’ve been talking about the greatness that is Uber for YEARS and absolutely nobody in Oregon has believed me. So glad that’s an option where you are!

    Liked by 1 person

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