One of the things we were excited for was the availability of cars that are not in the US. In addition to various models, there are also entire brands that are now available to us. The image below captures some of these options.
Starting in the top left they are: Renault Kwid, Volkswagen Amarok, Renault Clio, Citroen C4 Cactus, right hand drive car, Renault Sandero, Ford Kuga, Kia Picanto, Volkswagen Polo, Opel Adam.
In addition to the new cars we also have to get used to right hand drive, and driving on the left side of the road. I’m sure we’re going to have some scary moments as we begin to acclimate to our new environment.
The traffic so far appears to be normal large city traffic, and nothing like I experienced in India.
It looks like we will be in our permanent house in early March, and we’ll hopefully have a car by early next week. Continuing the positive theme, day zero has now been pushed back to July.
Earlier this week I went on a little tourist excursion with another trailing spouse expat. Since neither of us have a car we relied on one of those busses that drives tourists around. I’m sure you’ve seen the busses packed with folks taking pictures at everyday sights and thought ” oh gawd, more tourists”… So, yeah I was on that bus. ( I did manage to abstain from incessant picture taking). All in all the bus was very pleasant and informative. I’ll highly recommend it to anyone that is visiting cape town. The cool thing about the bus is that it is one of those ” hop on, hop off” arrangements. Which is awesome if you like the freedom of skipping some places and lingering in others.
We planned to hit 3 or 4 places, but only hit two. The first place we hit was the “Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden”. It is the tail end of summer here so things quite as pretty as they will be in the spring, but it was still a great visit. I’d definitely say that is a must do for anyone visiting cape town. Check out the InstaGram feed for some pictures. Take your time and enjoy it, just make sure you bring plenty of water.
Being perfectly honest I was apprehensive about our next stop and debated skipping it, but my companion really wanted to see it… So off we went to one of the townships, Imizamo Yethu.
Imizamo Yethu means “through collective struggle” or “our efforts” depending on who you believe. When we arrived we were escorted from the bus to a tour guide. Our Guide provided me with some much needed knowledge around the history of townships and this one in particular. I will say I never felt unsafe and no one came up to us demanding money. Everyone we encountered seemed very friendly. There were little shops, restaurants, barber shops, and hair salons. It was very much a community, with everyone looking out for each other. But, they certainly don’t have an easy life. For example; there is a preschool (Siyazama Creche)with over 100 children from 4 – 6 years old being taught by 3 volunteer teachers in a building that is smaller than most 2 bedroom apartments.
Our guide said something to me that I still find shocking and I’ve tried to wrap my head around it, but i just can’t… “Everything was better for us under apartheid”.. Let that one sink in. I was (and still am) shocked by this. I asked our guide to expand on that. She said that under apartheid there were jobs, now there are none. She has a valid point, SA’s unemployment rate recently dropped to 26.7 recently. That’s roughly 5.9 million people without work, over a quarter of the population… WOW!!!! There is a lot of hope that the new President will help clean up the corruption and get things moving in the right direction.
So you can say my perspective definitely got shifted.
You may be shocked to learn that there aren’t any direct flights from Chicago to Cape Town. In fact it ends up being about 20 hours in the air. YAY?!?! In a surprise twist we arrived in Amsterdam 45 minutes early. I thought it was due to our awesome pilot, but it looks like the Jet Stream had a large part to play. I didn’t manage to sleep on the 1st flight, but I was able to sleep for a couple of hours on the flight from Amsterdam to Cape Town. While I was in a lack of sleep induced haze I had a couple of epiphanies. The first was that I’ve now traveled to been on 4 continents and both hemispheres. The second was that Africa is really Massive. In fact, on our nearly 12 hour flight, only 2 hours were not spent over Africa. WOW!
Once we landed, we got through customs and retrieved our luggage without issue. We found that we were not staying in the temporary apartment as originally planed, but rather a hotel near the V&A waterfront. We walked down to Waterfront on Sunday, it’s a bit of a tourist trap complete with a Ripley’s believe it or not. But it’s (so far) not overdone.
At this point it still feels like we are on vacation instead of “home”. I’m sure that we’ll have a shift in mindset once we are in our long term housing and we get our shipment of belongings. Deciding to ship the majority of my summer clothes turns out to not have been the correct course of action. Thankfully we were able to buy some clothes at the waterfront.
And on a positive note day Zero has been pushed back to May due to decrease in usage from the agriculture industry.
Moving to other side of the world meant that we couldn’t take everything we owned. We have made attempts to downsize and reduce clutter in our lives previously, but now we found ourselves in a situation that required we eliminate even more of the clutter from our lives at a quick pace. Thankfully I was no longer employed so I had plenty of time to sort through things.
What I quickly learned was that we had a lot of stuff, some was purely junk. There were several full trash bins, trips to goodwill, and a “drink all our booze”party to help eliminate the vast majority of the clutter.
We were very lucky that we were able to store some family heirlooms and other items we couldn’t give-up with family and friends. Given that this is a temporary assignment we certainly appreciate not having to part with everything.
Once everything was put in storage, or donated to charity, we found that were only taking 16 small boxes with us. Wow!
Below is the house before packing: