South Africa #1: What am I doing here?

I'm still trying to figure out how I got this lucky.

Earlier this week, I woke up in Michigan and it was -5 C. Today I woke up at 6 AM (sleeping in!) and it was sunny and about 27 C. [American friends, this is where you realize I've gone to the dark side and everything is going to be in the metric system for the next 5 months]. I live now in this perfect place nestled between the oceans and the mountains where my commute to work is about 60 seconds and the sun is up for 16 hours a day. Hermanus has a weird blend of an arid but humid climate, so it ends up with pineapples and cacti growing next each other [no big deal...]

Amore', my grad student sister, kept me alive the first night
I'll be working at the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) over the next 4 months or so as part of my dissertation work. I arrived this week after 19 hours of flying (25+ hours of travel) to the note seen on the left and bowls of food (
Just an everyday morning walk, you know how it is. 
I openly cried when I saw this I was so hungry and grateful). Since then, it has been a whirlwind of meeting new people, trying to remember names, trying to remember that the passenger side is the left side of the car (GAH - gets me every time!), adjusting to work, and exploring.

Overlooking Hermanus, SA

I've settled into an awesome routine. I wake up at 5 AM (sun's up!), eat breakfast and drink tea, and go for an hour walk along the coast. [Really, this is living the dream]. It's so tranquil in the morning here... I then go to work and focus like a good little graduate student. Hermanus is mostly English ex-pats and white tourists, so tea time, sunblock, and sun hats are everywhere. Afrikaans is the main language spoken here (my first phrase phoentically: droll n d drunk vater, or turd in the drinking water). But English is everywhere, so no one has had to see my sorry attempt at speaking other languages...

Being here makes me realize how far I am from America. I haven't met another American yet. Although everyone speaks English, my accent is the weird one. I'm also a little dark for the typical British person and, let's face it, 20 cm taller too, so I stand out. I'm in the racial minority here and people move in racial clumps (more about that later), so I'm blocked as a white British person. When my room mate Helen (from the UK, visiting for a month) and I travel, people look at me funny when I talk while she gets a pass. I don't feel lonely and I don't miss home (yet), but I do feel ... far away.

Amore' giving a sunset tour
This is what dreams are made of
As for adventures, this week has been no exception with many firsts. Helen and I went home with Amore' on Friday, drank some of the best wine I've EVER had with her neighbors, and had quite the raucous time. Amore' lives on a farm, so Saturday morning I woke up early and walked around the paths for a bit and then read on her porch accompanied by her cat. The cat proceeded to torture and eat a large frog in front of me, and then capped it off with a spider #delightful
Hermanus beach - surf's up bro!

From there, Helen and I decided to spend the day exploring, going to a South African market, hiking, and going to the beach. Helen fortunately has a rental car for the month and can both drive English style and manual, so I'm extremely lucky x2. I'm also lucky that Helen shares the same penchant I have for perambulating, so we walked around about 15 km. Kite surfing was quite popular on that windy day, and many people were out and about enjoying the good weather too :D

There was a line to take a picture here... 
The water was a bright turqoise, this picture doesn't do it justice
Do not recommend when light is on

That wasn't enough though - Helen and I decided to make a trip out to L' Agulhas, the Southern most point in Africa where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet on Sunday. It was absolutely gorgeous, and anyone going to Cape Town should add this to their list (about 2 hour drive away). We walked along the coast, climbed up into the light house, played in the tidal pools, climbed a mountain, and, of course, made time for tea time.

Of course, tea time!

View from Top of nearby mountain
Brad's working on his buns, hun
  As I spend more time with Helen and Amore', I'm increasingly picking up British habits and sayings. I now say things like 'dodgy' and 'navi' (that's my favorite now, for a GPS system).The South Africans inherited most of the British expressions and habits (tea time, driving style, words), but South Africa never fails to surprise me everyday. For example, I thought for sure french fries would be chips, but it's about a 50/50 split when it's fries and when it's chips. In fact, sometimes on the menu it says chips but you say fries when you order. Still can't figure that out, but considering how important fries are to me, I'm working on it diligently...

So it was a perfect day after a perfect day after an awesome night after a whirlwind first week. There's so much more I want to say here about everything, but I think this is enough to start with. I'm obviously ecstatic to see what the rest of this summer brings. For now though, I need to go get some work done ;)

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