Find some friends

Bordering on Beautiful. Day 13.

Dancers, Greenmarket Square, Cape Town

I updated my iPhone before I left for Cape Town and a new app appeared: it was called the “find my friends” app. It appears that my iPhone, like my mother, knows when I am feeling nervous. I’ve been in Cape Town for three days, and there are quite a lot of differences. I live behind a steel gate, but I have a stunning view of the mountains. In addition to the security stipulations and awe-inspiring scenery, this is a period of my life that is rather unlike any other. I’m trying to live and immerse myself in the moment as much as possible. Such mindfulness does not come easy in new cultural contexts.

By venturing beyond the edges of my 21-year old map, I shredded my comfort zone. The hardest part is that I am living in a new city where I have few pre-formed friendships. This not a time in my life when “that was easy button” is applicable. Post-grad generally isn’t.

Researchers insist on the importance of family and friendship ties for emotional stability and long-term happiness. And physical proximity makes a difference… So, over the past few days, I did what millennials do best: I took my iPhone’s advice. I ventured off to “find my friends.”

Here are some of the wonderful people I’ve met in my first three days in Cape Town:

On a historical walking tour of Cape Town this morning, I met Jodie. Jodie is from London but she has been living in Cape Town for three months. She’s a badass law school graduate working to prevent domestic violence. She loves learning languages and she’s lived in Russia, France, and Spain. When our tour guide wasn’t speaking, she answered all my questions about safety in Cape Town. By the end of our lunchtime together, she had assuaged a lot of the fears that had coalesced within my head and reminded me what a difference a single conversation can make.

Then there’s my suite mate, Andre. Last night, Andre lit a fire in the living room and we talked about everything from the word “sonder” to the proper temperature to maintain a turtle’s health. Andre is from Johannesburg, but he moved to Cape Town to work for a computer science company here. He showed me how to use the intense security system in the house (about four times lol) and taught me how to work the strangest stove top I’ve ever seen. It’s a touch-screen… but why anyone would make a heat-conducting stove a touch screen is beyond me.

I’ve had other, more sporadic conversations with uber drivers and people in coffee shops. On my way home today, my uber driver Ally taught me a few words in Swahili. He’s from Burundi, so we also chatted in French for a bit before I realized that j’ai oublié beaucoup de mots. Ooops. A coffee date with my French textbook is in order.

On the walking tour today, our guide Rico talked about his memories living under Apartheid rule. He showed us a “whites only” and “colored only” bench. When somebody asked him how he identified, he said, “I identify, first and foremost, as a human being.”

The roots of Apartheid are still strong in Cape Town, and another uber driver told me that there is a lot of Xenophobia between Capetonians and people from other African countries. The comment rhetoric is: “the people from [insert other African country here] are taking our jobs.” Sound familiar?

Fear affects us all, and not without due cause. The world can be a frightening place. Still, the initial conversations I’ve had with “Humans of Cape Town” remind me that there will always be people to help you when you need a word of advice or a deep discussion about how to properly care for turtles. The quote on the side of the end of the Good Earth sweet and spicy tea I just had summarizes the benefits of travel quite well: “If you’re brave enough to say ‘goodbye,’ life will reward you with a new ‘hello.’”

So, my initial thoughts on Cape Town: it’s an adjustment, but one that I believe will be well worth it in the end. The hardest part right now is that I don’t have a network of people I know and love. But I believe that will come — and that will be the most rewarding part of the entire experience. Last summer, I flew to Jordan with no idea of who I would meet. I met people who changed the way I saw the world, who altered the way I saw myself. Cape Town is already starting revolutionize the way I view my next post-grad steps… but more on that later.

The streets of Bo-Kaap
Doodles in a coffee shop
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