It has already been a week since I arrived in the Mother City but I still feel like ‘Johnny Just Come’ (JJC)! But this is not the usual JJC syndrome of being in awe and not knowing how things work. My JJC is more psychological and I realise that it goes back to the cold December day in Sheffield when I got the ‘Congratulations – your funding application has been successful’ email. Now imagine how delighted I was to be looking forward to a summer in Cape Town. In my mind, a number of key distinctions were conflated. This included thinking that July/August are summer months everywhere. Even when I was reminded that it will be winter in South Africa, I mentally conflated the varied geographical differences across the African continent with the thought that it is always hot in Africa. If South Africa is part of Africa then how bad can winter get. Moreover, I was also told that it is usually a mild winter compared to the winters in Sheffield. Now I know, I should have listened more to my thesis supervisor who told me winter in South Africa is cold and rainy because it is really cold, rainy and windy. Having tasted and seen, I now know that I am not born for the cold – not even this so called mild winter on the tip of the hot continent. The question that I am still asking myself is why did I bring my football boots? 😦
Anyway, the cold weather aside, this has been a pretty good week for me. The Saturday after my arrival was sort of sunny and offered me the opportunity to go wandering around the lower, middle and upper campuses of the University of Cape Town. I spent the next three days in lock down in my room and managed to churn out over 8000 words for Chapter 5 of my thesis. More than half of this was actually first handwritten at home and then typed up when I went to the office at UCT. I realise that I think faster when I hand write than if I’m typing straight away on the laptop. Typing out the written notes then offers an another opportunity for more analysis and finessing of the text. It has been quite a writing boot-camp and the experience has so far been good for me. Although on some days I keep sinking ever deeper as I immerse myself into the interview transcript and policy documents without much success in finding that magic first sentence to set my writing inspiration flowing. It can be frustrating and in the midst of all the ups and downs I remind myself that this too shall pass. 🙂
In a very nerdy kind of way, getting my UCT student card has been one of the key highlights of my first week. The admin paper work was not too complicated and now I feel like ‘I am here some’. I feel like I am one of the folks. As someone who considers studying as a profession it is kind of cool to have another institutional affiliation.
However, the day after I got my card and went to back campus I did realise how lonely I feel as a new student. On Thursday morning when I got to campus, there was a Redbull music event on Jameson Plaza where a large crowd of students were gathered – sitting, standing and hanging on short walls in little groups. I found a place to stand and observed all around me the familiarity between many people who were bouncing their heads and feet in tune with the music. I did feel singled out and a real JJC. It was as if everyone was looking at me but of course they did not have a clue that I am newbie. It is quite a funny feeling walking around campus and checking out faces in anticipation of recognising someone I know or have met somewhere before. But all the faces I see are at once familiar and unfamiliar. I know I can be happily introverted when I want to be but it will still be nice to bump into someone on campus and go…”OMG! its great to see you again!!! Long time no see!!! Where have you been all these years!!!” But I am not holding my breath for this yet. At least I have had Adam – a fellow Ghanaian who is consultant with Habitat SA and doing a PhD at UCT – come to check on me. Plus, I have booked my travel to Jo’burg where I can be sure to meet familiar faces for an ISS reunion.
Thus far in my first week I have not seen anything beyond the route from my house in Rondebosch to the UCT campus. Adam did drive me pass the Presidential Palace in Cape Town where Mr. Zuma stays when he is in town. My hood is a very quiet leafy suburbia place with many huge and menacing dogs guarding houses. Maybe it is time to explore a bit more of what this city has to offer. This morning I am going to fellowship at Church on Main which has a student congregation meeting on UCT Lower campus. What better place to get to meet fellow students and be warmly welcomed and accepted than in church 🙂 If the forecast of snow fall on some hills doesn’t get to Rondebosch and the sky holds steady in blue, I might even continue to the city centre for a stroll to kick off another exciting week.