A few days ago, I got an e-mail from a facebook buddy I vaguely remember from high school. She was excited. She’d been offered a place at my alma mater which got its name from being on the most southern tip of Zuma-land. With peculiar familiarity, she shared with me how she had since accepted the offer then got her travel documents and finances in order and that her orientation sessions start in a fortnight’s time. So she concludes her loquacious, happy-chappy e-mail with the following statement:
“So, anyways I know you went to school there. Please tell me, what’s it like? What should I expect? Got any tips for me?”
Well I cant say I didnt expect such questions especially with most of my Kenyan pals planning roadtrips down South for the World Cup this June. But I definitely didnt expect questions about the campus life. As for that particular school down there.. hmm. Well, I’m still in the process of exchanging hateful e-mails with the administration over long overdue outstanding academic matters. But let me dig deep and find something to say about those inefficient, self-serving, borderline racist fools. *Pause* Ok that was TMI, so I hit ‘delete’ for about 5 mins and restart the e-mail response as I attempt to pen something fairly pleasant about that school. Don’t get me wrong, my relationship with the school may have been bitter-sweet (more bitter than sweet, clearly) but the city itself, the Mother City as they call it, was perfect. A magical city indeed. There are way too many distractions for it to be a university city if you ask me, but its by far one of the best cities I’ve lived in on our continent.
Only thing is, you’ll only truly enjoy this gorgeous city when you don’t have the shackles of education clickedy-clanking everywhere you go. But let me guess, you’ve probably visited it once before with your family on one of those annual holiday getaway thingies that Kenyan middle- class families usually have. Right? You all flew down there, roasted in the December heat, got a nice BnB or hotel somewhere in the Gardens area or was it Rondebosch? So then you ventured out, cameras ready, went up on the cable car, admiring the breath-taking vistas surrounding Table Mountain, got adventurous and hiked Devil’s Peak then picnicked somewhere in the beautiful wine estates, sampled the pristine beaches along the Atlantic, took family bonding photos on Robben Island, then passed by and visited Mandela’s upgrade in Bishop’s Court, explored the V&A Waterfront, experienced how the rich and wealthy live it up in Camps Bay, walked the famous Long Street with its vibrant and inviting atmosphere filled with cafes, restaurants, boutiques and markets perhaps? You probably did a whole bunch of other cool stuff too, yeah woop woop for you. But that was a holiday, your parents paid for everything.
However, as a student, CT can be a cruel city. It’s the most expensive city to live in. It’s the legislative capital first, a tourist city second and a university city in close third. So that means things like accommodation, transportation and living expenses aren’t cheap. But anyone could’ve told you that much, so I’m sure you’ve budgeted accordingly. Another thing, lest you allow the abundance of white folk, shiny skycrapers and high-speed internet to fool you, CT is still in Africa which means they have a lot of the same problems the rest of us have like crime, corruption and poverty. However, that country you’ll be living in has two unique issues that you must be aware of namely racial tensions and xenophobia. I hate to sound like an alarmist but I believe the people there are still very much conscience of their apartheid past and apparent economic and social inequalities that remain prevalent today. As a female, I must also inform you that gender-based violence is rife, coupled with numerous instances of rape and relatively high HIV/AIDS rates throughout the country.
My tips to you are as follows: firstly, remember you’re on your own so guard your possessions especially your passport and other important documents. Also, CT is often called the city of four seasons which basically means that in one day you can have a 30 degree mid-morning, a chilly and windy afternoon and a rainy night, and the weathermen never seem to get it right so just make sure you plan your movements carefully and dress accordingly. Secondly, get the tourist/foreigner (‘kwere kwere’) mentality out of your head and your body language, embrace the Rainbow Nation! Don’t worry too much about finding out where the other diaspora Kenyans are at, they’ll find you, trust me.. instead try to mix with the locals as much as you can, pick up a few words of isiZulu, isiNdebele, Tswana, even Afrikaans especially the greetings – they really come in handy because people tend to warm up to you more that way than if you just stick to speaking to them in English all the time. You’ll get the hang of it. As far as getting work is concerned, it’s pretty much like any country abroad, you’re a foreigner so you’re at the bottom of the hiring list. Luckily they’re a lot of jobs you can do on campus that are permissible under your student visa and that can earn you sufficient cash to get by. Oh and another thing, you shall get hooked to house music and kwaito so dont even fight it, it will grow on you and you wont get enough of it! You’ll see.. On a personal note, I also found it very useful travelling to other provinces within the country. I know it looks vast on the map but once you start making friends there, you can easily organise trips quite cheaply to and from other cities and towns. It’s the best way to learn a whole lot about your host country has to offer and its really fun.
All that being said, let me assure you that there is nothing about CT you wont be able to adapt to and I have no doubt that you will find your niche and be successful in all your endeavours down South. As it is often said: “If you can make it in Nai, you can make it anywhere.”
Now playing: Skwatta Kamp – ‘Eskhaleni’