It’s been a month already – I can hardly believe how fast it’s gone. Yet I haven’t been working for more than a month now. There have been so many emotions coursing through me – some good – some disturbing. I’m trying to teach myself this new way of life – this carefree way – but it certainly has hurdles. The hurdles of years and years of working away at the American dream…money, title, security. I have none of those things now – I gave them up – and it’s quite a lot to deal with some days. These hurdles lead to me freaking out every so often – I no longer have a job – very strange. Granted – no one I’ve met is shocked that I’m jobless – it’s just the social pressure that I’m putting on myself. It feels weird to just be spending money and not have any coming in. I feel lazy and guilty some days – like I’m not using my brain. Yet – if I really think about it – I am using my brain every day – in fact it’s in overload taking in new things, new thoughts, new experiences. But it’s no longer running meetings, or making business decisions. Heck – my hardest decision I make each day is to decide what to eat and where to go (then again – back at my old job one of my big decisions of the day was what to eat – so maybe it’s no so different!). I can no longer plan every moment of my days/weeks/months. This is what I excelled at in NYC – I always had something planned – every moment. Not anymore – my brain is struggling with this new phenomena – but it’s slowly getting used to it.
For the 1st time in 14 years – I am getting 8 hours of sleep a night, not using an alarm clock, and waking up laying in bed completely wondering what I will do that day. I have no plans. This is a bit unnerving for me. I feel like I’m watching a sitcom of someone else’s life – this can’t be my life. I haven’t watched TV for at least 3 weeks, and I haven’t read any American news for a month. I find myself craving a NY Times. (Miles – stop laughing) In the 3 1/2 years I lived in NYC – I NEVER read the Times – Miles would tell me the headlines and that’s how I stayed informed. However – now whenever I go into a book store – I find myself scouring the shelves for one…anything…even a USA Today…yes – I’m desperate!
I haven’t run for a month now too…my body really has no idea what is going on…it’s starving for adrenaline! However – my running friend Vida from NYC informed me that the Coach team did really well in the Corporate Challenge Championship race. I had qualified for this race before I left but had to decline since I wouldn’t be there. However – she told me that it had my time, Sherry Ott, listed at running it in 25:06. So even though I’m halfway around the world – I guess my alter ego is still in NYC running faster than ever!!! So – whomever ran for me…thanks I guess!!
There are some skills that I’ve put to use in a big way since I’ve been traveling – sleeping through lots of loud noise is one. NYC trained me well for the hostels that I’m living in. Walls are thin and people are loud – but I sleep right through it! I’ve put my art of socializing in overdrive. I have met so many new people in simply a week – it’s a bit overwhelming.
Please take note – as you continue to read my blog – I will simply refer to these people that I meet as my ‘new friends’ from (pick a country). You won’t be able to keep up with the names and places – as I can hardly do that and I’m living it!
Some of the recent new friends have been a couple from Holland, newlyweds from Brighton, Mark and Pat from North Wales, Sara from Toronto, and a Bobbie from Philly. The list goes on and one and I’ve only been at one hostel. I must admit – I was a bit concerned about how I would do in the hostels as I’ve never stayed in one before (once again I’m experiencing things in my 30′s that I should have experienced in my 20′s – oh well – it makes me feel young!) .
So far the hostel experience has been amazing – it’s like a socializing factory of sorts. I’ve decided that shy people don’t travel – as everyone I’ve met is extremely outgoing – kind of like cheerleaders on crack – but in a good way! I’ve yet to brave ‘dorm living’ in a hostel yet – but it is in my near future. I’ve been living on my own with my cat now for 10 years – the thought of sleeping in a bunk bed and sharing bathrooms terrify me a bit. However – one of the quickest ways to becoming ‘old’ is to become set in your ways – so – in the name of youth – I will give dorm living a go! It’s all part of the adventure!
OK – now on to Capetown…sorry for that diversion – but admit it – you were getting bored with simply travel blog stuff.
Arriving in South Africa was stunning – I felt like I had been ship wrecked for a month and all of a sudden I was dropped back into modern society. The 3rd world to 1st world switch was abrupt and I felt a sense of relief to see normal roads, ATM’s, fast food places and malls – but at the same time I felt sad to be leaving the ‘simple’ life. Every day in Eastern Africa put my brain synapses in overdrive – I was redlining with thoughts on what I was seeing every day. On the other hand – the thought of a country with uninterrupted electricity was sounding pretty good to me!
I stayed at Cape Town Backpackers in the heart of Cape Town in the Tamboerskloof neighborhood. Since Cape Town has a LARGE Dutch influence – all of the names have this strange Dutch sound (Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, etc) as if the chef from the Muppets named all of the places. You remember him – he talked but made no sense. Every time I hear one of these Dutch names I say it in my head with the chef’s accent in mind.
Photo: Cape Point Coast Line
When Cyndi left me I decided that I needed to first spend some time site-seeing at the local Internet Cafe. I spent the whole afternoon there catching up on things. When I got back to the hostel I asked the staff there if I could reserve a Robben Island ticket as I had heard they had to be booked in advance. Luckily Lea (the manager) was able to get me a space in a couple of days – at that time a young guy who overhead my conversation wanted /friend, Pat, and my first ‘new friends’ were found – Mark and Pat from North Wales. It’s weird how things work out…I had been terrified all day that I would be lonely and here came along the perfect new friends! They were funny, outgoing, and liked to drink – a match made in Hostel Heaven! They asked me to join them for dinner and for the next 3 days we were joined at the hip!
We went on a tour of Cape Point together dinner and drinks every night, Robben Island, and I taught them how to play Yahtzee. In exchange I learned great new phrases such as “I was so pissed last night!” – meaning – “I was so drunk last night”. I learned that being “tapped” or “pulled” meant that you were hit on at a bar (or wherever). I learned the difference between snogging and shagging. I learned that Wales is NOT the same country as England (yet that is all still a bit fuzzy for me) and finally I learned a bit about soccer leagues in Europe as well as the fact that a proper cricket match can last for days. The education was all jolly good fun! Pat and Mark were co-workers and had a humorous friendship – kind of like brother and sister – so I fit in just fine.
Mark was the first person I ever met that made a part time living repairing Bouncy Castles. Apparently bouncy castles are popular in Wales and they often ‘pop’ – Mark to the rescue!! However his funniest trait was that he had self diagnosed himself with a ‘shy bladder’. Not a small bladder – a shy bladder. He couldn’t pee around other people in a public bathroom. I thought he was trying to pull the gullible American along – but Pat confirmed it and he proceeded to show me the illness definition on Google (you can look it up yourself)…how absurd! As you can tell – we got along great! Bouncy Castle repair man with a shy bladder – I still chuckle thinking about it!
When we went to Cape Point we were able to see the African penguins along Boulder Beach. The penguins get the nickname Jackass penguins because they make noises like a donkey. How a cute little penguin can make such a horrible noise just seems wrong. After viewing the penguins we drive to Cape Point to go biking. However on the way our guide spotted some whales off the coast about 300 ft. away. We stopped and realized there were actually 3 whales swimming together – they were so close to us that you could hear them – the noise was much nicer than the penguins!
We proceeded to the entrance to the point and hopped on our bikes for a leisurely coast downhill – not quite the type of workout I was expecting. However the coastline once again reminded me of Northern California – Big Sur area. After lunch we hiked up to the lighthouse and then down to the Cape of Good Hope – the area where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. I expected to see some wall of water like when Moses parted the Red Sea – but it was rather uneventful! The only way to really tell that the oceans meet is by the temperature of the water. The Atlantic is still cold and the Indian Ocean is warm. That night the hostel had a big BBQ (called a brai in South Africa) – it was quite the party – even some bar top dancing – surprisingly I refrained from dancing on the bar – and left that to the bouncy castle repairman.
We visited Robben island the next day in the blustery weather with a slight hangover. We got on the ferry and I had the deja vu of going to Alcatraz island – cold ferry out to a island prison – who could blame me. They had ex-prisoners give you a tour of the old facilities – which was even more creepy. You just had to wonder what in the world would make them want to come back to this hated place and be a guide. Besides a being a prison for political prisoners during apartheid – the island served as a leper colony from 1845 to 1931, and a military base from 1939 to 1959 and then a prison was formed from 1960 to 1991. Mandella was imprisoned there from 1963 to 1982 and then taken to yet another prison before being released.
The island was dismal, the leper colony cemetery was eerie and the prison was depressing – this was my kind of tour! The cells didn’t have beds – just mats rolled out on the floor, a shared bathroom and a small yard area. The cold oozed through the floors and the mats. The whole thing just left you wondering – “How the hell could’ve this happened?” Apartheid actually means ‘living apart’. The black and colored people had no rights, were kicked out of their neighborhoods and no future. This was not more than 13 years ago – it seems impossible that this was so recent – in my lifetime.
Yet the South Africa today still has many issues. The government is new and still corrupt in less visible ways. The crime is high and i saw no police presence anywhere. Everyone forbids me from walking outside alone once the sun goes down and it drives me crazy! I feel like Princess Fiona from Shrek and have to race the sun home before I turn into mugging bait! I heeded their advice and would take taxis a matter of 6 blocks – this made my New Yorker blood boil!. I talked to once South African that said that “during apartheid they locked the blacks out, and now the whites simply lock themselves in”. Very true statement – as all affluent people live in gated, high security neighborhoods. There’s something about beautiful houses/estates surrounded by barbed wire that just seems wrong. Yet this is the norm all over Africa. Everyone hires security guards – I swear that ADT must be the biggest employer here! At times this all made me feel as if Capetown was simply masquerading as a 1st world country. 1st world by day, but reverting back at night. Maybe Giuliani should consider taking over!
Photo: At the lighthouse at Cape of Good Hope