Finding my place in Cape Town “just now”

I moved into my new apartment for the summer last Sunday, June 2. I live right in the middle of the city in an apartment with many other interns from the Connect 123 program. The way this whole thing works, is that once you’re accepted into the Connect 123 program, they begin searching for an internship for you based on a resume and letter of interest. From there, the program situates your housing and coordinates some activities in the area. There is a group of students form Michigan State, but there are many others from across the country and globe.

Further milking my good luck in the roommate department, a sorority sister of mine was randomly assigned to my apartment, along with two other girls from Michigan State. The place is small for four girls to live. Nicole and I have taken over the room, with stacks and piles in every direction. The fridge is full to the brim, being shared four ways. The hot water didn’t work. The shower didn’t work. We resorted to taking baths, pouring cold water over ourselves from a cup. The shower is still not fixed and mists lightly, but pounds with all of the water pressure focused on one spot that could tear through your skin. It’s freezing here. Actually, I don’t think that I’ve been anything but cold since I arrived at the apartment. But, despite all of its quirks, it’s starting to feel like home.

To get to work in the morning, I take the city bus. Now, this city bus makes the CATA feel like a luxury vehicle. As much as I complained, I long for the days of the Valencia busses, with trackers on every bus and exact times at every stop. These busses are old and loud. They’re also known to be dangerous, and really nobody with any type of money in Cape Town, especially white people, take the busses. But hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. They don’t stop at the bus stop unless you flag them down, and as I’ve learned, they don’t always stop when you request. My first day was something like my first day in Valencia. Jess, the woman who finally secured my internship days before I left, drove me to the office. From there, she told me to get a hold of my friend Kevin to try to come home with him. Luckily, I was saved and a coworker drove me home. The next day I reluctantly rode the bus with Kevin, without any instruction from Jess as to where to get off. I stayed on too long, and as Kevin is one or two stops passed me, when he rang the bell signaling his stop, the bus driver just decided to not stop. It resulted in Kevin banging on the bus drivers window for him to stop before he got onto the freeway, and me walking a good half a mile back through a sketchy area alone. Other than day one, Kevin keeps me mostly sane and cuts back on my morning bus riding anxiety.

As far as my job and the reason I’m in Cape Town, I am an intern at ORT SA Cape (http://www.ortsacape.org.za/ ). The larger arm of this non-profit organization is actually the oldest NGO in the world and was started in Russia for the Jewish community. At the time, the Jews were marginalized into certain occupations. ORT helped to technically train them to return them to better jobs. From there it has expanded across the globe, and there are a few offices today in South Africa. The main goals of ORT SA Cape are focused on education. They run teacher training programs, entrepreneurial workshops, and numerous education programs including an afterschool robotics program, which I have been working closely with. Thus far I have been doing general office work in the mornings and in the afternoons I go to schools with a colleague with Lego robotics kits and we run afterschool robotics clubs. ORT SA Cape has more affluent schools pay for this service, and in turn is able to offer the same service to other underprivileged schools free of charge.

Right now I’m kind of waiting for the job to take off. I spent much of my time sorting the Lego’s from the day before, programming computers or iPads, and watching the kids, so I’m hoping that they will have a larger role for me in the near future. I am also not an engineer, math major, interested in science, or marketing, so I’m trying to figure out my place. As with the rest of my experience here, I think that this will come in time. A favorite saying of the locals is “just now”. I’ll get that for you “just now” could mean in ten minutes, or it could mean next week. It’s a loosely used term, but I believe that I’ll get into my grove in Cape Town and at my internship, “just now”.

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