Posted by: Abbey | May 1, 2011

Be careful who you blog for

Living with 20 people in a house sounds like it would be one big party all the time, and for the most part, it is. We all get along and hang out just like one big family, except when someone forgets to wash their dishes or leaves their clothes in the washer for days. There’s the occasional disagreement here and there, but things never go too far.

The other day, my roommate and I came across a blog by a certain study abroad student, living in Cape Town, who happens to live in Charlton House with 20 roommates. Coincidence? I think not. As we began reading it, we started to put the puzzle pieces together. The blogger thought he was being very clever by not using full names and instead referring to those in his blog by only the first letter of their name, so for example, I was kindly referred to as “A”.

At first his posts seemed harmless. I short story about “D” here and a funny anecdote about “L” there. But as we read further, the posts began to turn a little more vicious. No longer was it a blog about “all of the cool people” the blogger lived with, it was now more of a ranting space. Obviously, this particular blogger assumed that no one from Charlton House would ever read his masterpiece, otherwise he probably would not have said the things that he said.

I now know that if I ever want to do some complaining about a person, a whiny phone call to a friend, or rather a ranting session over coffee, are way better options than posting it on the internet for all eyes to see.

Posted by: Abbey | April 18, 2011

Out of mind, but not out of sight

One of the best parts of moving away to college in another state is that you get to move out of your parents’ home and live on your own. No one tells you do clean your room, make your bed, or wash the dishes. While it’s nice to be independent, it’s also comforting to know that your parents are just a phone call away just in case. It’s also nice to have the occasional reminders, like “Don’t forget to call your grandpa today to wish him a happy birthday!” or “Don’t forget to pay your credit card bill!”

One of the best parts of moving away to another continent is that you are far enough away for even a phone call from your parents, unless absolutely necessary. E-mail is your main form of communication and this limits the conversation to topics such as how much you miss each other and how much good, clean fun you are having in Africa – nothing too serious. Who wouldn’t be in a good mood all the time if all you ever spoke about to your parents was how nice the weather is and how much fun everyone is having? You see my point.

The thing is, I just came to the realization that just because I am not at home, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all the banks, businesses, and other offices shut down until I get back, although I’d like to think so. In the spirit of tax season, I decided to check my banking statement the other day. Low and behold, I had missed a payment and in return, the nice people at Wells Fargo Banking slapped me with a hefty fine. Don’t they know that I’m in Africa and don’t have the time or desire to deal with these sort of things? Next, I decided to check my billing account for one of the clubs that I am part of back home. Apparently I had missed a payment on that too and was jeopardy of being put on probation. Finally, I decided to give a quick look at one of my personal email accounts that I hadn’t checked in quite some time, thanks to my new UCT email account. You wouldn’t believe it, but I had a stack of emails that needed attending to ASAP.

It’s pretty easy to see what I learned here, people. Living in Africa does not excuse me from my civic duties as an American citizen.  Sometimes parents do know best.

Posted by: Abbey | April 3, 2011

Walk, don’t run, into the Indian Ocean

Over the long holiday this past week, some friends and I decided to hop on a plane to Durban where we rented a car and headed out on the open road. We stopped at a few places along the way and stayed overnight at different hostels in St. Lucia, Maputo, Nelspruit, and finally, Tofo Beach in Mozambique. Upon arrival, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The hostel was situated on the most beautiful and remote beach I had ever seen in my life and I couldn’t believe that we were going to be staying there for the week.

I’ve been to the beaches in Florida, Mexico, and Costa Rica, but nothing compared to Tofo. One of the main reasons was because it was my first time swimming in the Indian Ocean. To say the least, it was glorious. The sand was clean, the water was warm, and there was a fully stocked bar just 30 steps from the beach. What more could I ask for?

One day, we walked to the local market to buy some souvenirs for those unfortunate people I know back in chilly Minnesota. By the end of our shopping spree, I was severely dehydrated and seeing spots, so I figured it was time to head back to our post. The sand was scorching hot and I could feel the bottoms of my feet blistering by the second. Luckily, when I looked up I saw blue ocean not more than 100 feet away, so I dropped my belongings and made a bee-line for the water. To say I was sprinting is an understatement. I was feeling free as a bird, like I was on top of the world, and grinning like a 5 year old, when all of a sudden I felt my ankle snap beneath me and my dreams were quickly shattered.

I wish I had some great story to tell about how I broke my ankle in Mozambique. It would probably be more exciting to be able to say that I broke it in a freak scuba accident or that I fell off the bar in a wet t-shirt contest. But no, I simply tripped over myself.

You’d think that the rest of my vacation was ruined, but it actually turned out to be one of the best trips of my life. Everyone helped me get around, whether it was by piggy back, wheelbarrow, Gandalf’s stick, or wheelchair.

This past weekend I went to Botswana with my parents to go on safari in the bush. Being that it took 5 flights to get to the camp we were staying at, Wifi was not a hot commodity. Electricity, for that matter, was seen as a secondary source to flame-lit laterns. The first day was easy. With so much scenery to take in and people to meet, updating my status was last on my list of things-to-do. It was nice to fall asleep to the sounds of hippos in the river outside of my bedroom rather than to an episode of “Weeds” downloaded from Hulu.

The second day came and I started to wonder if anyone had “@ mentioned” me in a Tweet or uploaded any embarrassing pictures of me in the past couple of days. It was kind of exciting to think that I could return home to a homepage with 15 notifications and 3 new friend requests. That day on the game drive, I scored and got some really great shots of a baby elephant feeding and two baboons mating. To be perfectly honest, my first thoughts were not about how great these photos would look on the fireplace mantel. Instead, I was busy racking my under-stimulated brain for possible photo album titles for Facebook – maybe something funny or witty that would get people’s attention when they creeped on my page.

This was just the beginning. In Cape Town, I live with 20 other kids in a house and there had been some recent “scandals”. Call me American, or just an old fashioned girl, but I always just HAD to know the latest gossip in our house. X had hooked up with Y, and Z was heartbroken, so Z got revenge by making out with S, who is X’s best-friend, etc. You get the idea.  At times our house seems like it is straight out of MTV and if you miss an episode, you feel completely out of the loop. That night at dinner, I couldn’t help but think about what steamy events had happened since my departure.

What really pushed me over the edge was when some new American guests arrived on my third day on the safari. They proceeded to inform those of us who had been out of contact for two or more days that the US, among others, had bombed Libya and there were urgent nuclear complications in Japan. Had I been within range of an Internet café, I would have sprinted there and hopped on (my favorite news website) to find out exactly how Obama had addressed the bombings, or maybe I would have gone straight to YouTube to watch live footage from Japan. This was the bush, though, and I was not able to do any of the above. I was literally itching. I’m not sure whether it was because of my urgent need for some source of information or if it was because I forgot to close the mosquito net the night before. Either way, it was not a good feeling and I hope to never encounter those feelings again.

I know that everyone thinks my generation is obsessed with social networking and texting and I’m not necessarily going to disagree. I will admit, thought, that while I am extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to go to Botswana and see the things that I saw, there was a part of me that felt like it was missing, so to speak. This was the first time where I was truly out of touch for an “extended” period of time, if you can even call it that, and I have to be honest – it was definitely a challenge.

So I guess I can’t pretend to be better than anyone else when it comes to feeling a sense of deprivation when I don’t have all 4 bars on my cell phone. Moral of the story? In the game of “survival of the fittest” in Internet-free zones, I lose.

Posted by: Abbey | March 8, 2011

When Europeans (and South Africans) text

I’d have to say that one of the perks of studying abroad is meeting a lot of people that aren’t from America. The cool part is realizing that they are basically the same as you, even though they live thousands of miles away. They go to college, just like Americans. They love Facebook, just like Americans. They like to get down on the weekends, just like Americans. They like to watch sports, just like Americans. But the one thing that they do completely differently from Americans is text. Or like they say it down here in South Africa, “SMS”.

Here are a few of the odd trends I have noticed from my brief time texting in Cape Town with my South African, Norwegian, German, Danish and Swiss friends:

*Disclaimer: these are sweeping generalizations, but I have found that they occur A LOT

1.     They overuse icons such as the overzealous smiley : D,  the creepy smiley with the tongue sticking out : P and the face which I don’t even know what it’s supposed to be : o

2.     They send me messages in their native languages that are other than English for some sick reason, causing me great confusion until I get Internet access and can translate it, only to find out it means “hey what’s up”

3.     They love to sign “xoxo” + (insert name here) at the end of their messages, full on Gossip Girl style. I have to say that this weirded me out a little at first, but I’ve found it to be quite useful when you receive a text from that “rando” after a long weekend and can’t quite remember who is sending you that awkward text with the creepy smiley face


What are some weird texting trends that you find common among Americans?

The first thing my foreign roommates noticed about us Americans, is that everything is the most “coolest”, “funniest”, “hottest”, “longest” thing we have EVER SEEN!!!!! In other words, we exaaaaaaagerate almost everyyyyyyyyything. I guess I never really thought about the fact that when I pass out for a bit in the middle of the day, it really isn’t “like a 1000 hour nap”, when I’m carrying a suitcase up the stairs, it’s not “one million pounds”, that hike up Table Mountain wasn’t “5 billion miles long”, and when that guy trips on the sidewalk and spills his drink everywhere, it truly isn’t “the funniest thing I have ever seen”. Or is it? Either way, I guess the bottom line is that we all need to take a chill pill, or maybe twenty thousand.


Posted by: Abbey | March 6, 2011

First post

This is not a blog about my “adventures” in Cape Town, nor is it a blog about my favorite hobbies. If you’re interested in that type of stuff, refer to my Facebook page. This is simply a blog about things that I (will) have learned during my time here in Cape Town, whether it is learned through experience, through the people I encounter or through a sheer instance of stupidity. I figured that this would be an interesting way to chronicle my time here so that I’m not just remembering the scenic beaches or the great drink specials at that one bar. So read on to find out all of the interesting, and hopefully entertaining, things I will learn from living in a foreign country.