It’s a gloomy, but well needed rainy day here in Stellenbosch. Waking up to dark skies and the pitter patter of rain on the windows made me want to stay snuggled in bed with a warm coffee for the rest of the day. Instead, my morning entailed having breakfast with my friend Sasa at Meraki–the most aesthetic cafè I’ve found in town. Afterwards we stopped in a florist shop where I fell IN LOVE with all their plants—so much I bought one for myself!
It’s been a hectic few weeks here, but I’m glad I’m finally able to sit down and write. At this time in the semester, I’m starting to work on big papers for my philosophy, history, and english classes. Long lectures and no classwork is much different than what I’m used to, but it’s forcing me to think differently and manage my time better. I’m in a lot of mainstream courses, meaning I’m one of the only American students (intimidating to say the least!!)
I’ve been living on a work hard, play hard mentality—making my weekends jam packed with fun times. My favorite weekends were doing the Frankschhoek wine tram, hiking to the First Waterfall at Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, and road tripping to Cape Point and Boulders Beach. This past Wednesday was Women’s Day which was a public holiday for everyone. Madison and I stumbled upon a wine festival on campus where there was live music at night!! I was so in my element and missed the concert atmosphere! Seeing local bands was very fun and now I’m looking even more forward to the Rocking the Daisies music festival in October.
I did the Frankschhoek wine tram with my friend Max, who I met at the Town Hall dinner, the first week of my stay. He’s from the U.S. but studies in Scotland, and he’s here doing an internship, but this was his last weekend in Stellenbosch. What better way to leave this beautiful country than back to back wine tastings and tours of 7 wineries?! We had a lekker time tasting different blends, not to mention eating one of the fanciest cheese platters I’ve set my eyes on. This day came to a rocky end, but all in all I had a fantastic time!
I’ve been to Jonkershoek one time before, however I was alone and didn’t get to hike to any waterfalls due to time contraints with the sun. Last Friday I didn’t have any classes and neither did Madison—so we strapped up and hiked all afternoon, finding the first waterfall and having a nice picnic lunch by the river. It was amazing to be disconnected from my phone and surrounded by nature. This was my favorite hike here so far, I hope to hike to the other two waterfalls before going home.
Being part of AIFS comes with excursions already planned within the program. This past Sunday we went to Cape Point, the Cape of Good Hope, and Boulders Beach. The Cape of Good Hope is a famous tourist attraction because it’s the most south-western point of Africa. Seeing a family of baboons and some ostriches was definitely a highlight of the trip! Down the road is Cape Point, another sight to see—it’s the tip of the continent!! Being on top of the mountain overlooking the sea was beautiful and funny to see what the other side of the Atlantic Ocean looks like. We stopped in town for lunch, where I got the freshest hake and chips, and we continued to Boulders Beach to check out the penguins. The penguins were so cute and to see them in their natural(ish) habitat was very entertaining.
In spite of keeping busy almost every day, I do have days where I’m homesick. I think it’s pretty normal to be feeling this way, however some days I get more down on myself. Of course I miss my family and my dog and my boyfriend. It gets hard sometimes to think about what everyone is up to at home—how I may be missing out on things. Doing this trip on my own has made me mentally tougher because I have no other option but to accept these feelings along with the 6 hour time difference and 7,000 miles separating me from home. Obviously I want to share all the amazing things I’ve been experiencing, but don’t be fooled—I still have tough days.
I’ve officially been here for a month, and I must admit South Africa has stolen my heart. It’s absolutely breathtaking and unreal how I can look one way and see mountains and rolling hills with scattered vineyards, then look the other way to see beautiful beaches with the bluest water in the Atlantic. No matter where I am/what I’m doing, I’m reminded how lucky I am to experience being in South Africa for 5 months. The amount of things I’ve done in a months time only makes me more excited for the other months’ adventures. I’m in the process of planning some weekend trips with friends, and I’m trying to backpack the Eastern Cape after I travel to the Garden Route during the spring recess. I’ll be sure to keep everyone updated!