1,000 pages later…

8 02 2010

People say that you’re not fully settled into a new home until you’ve found your go-to coffee shop, video store, supermarket, and, in Sunny’s case, kitchen supply store. By that definition, I’m happy to say we’ve officially begun life in Cape Town.

We’re loving our little flat, and we’re especially loving our next door neighbors, Maverick and Ice. These “Top Gun” stars are puppies that share our garden and come visit us several times a day. They seem to adore us, but it might have something to do with the rawhide treats Sunny keeps buying. They humor him by obeying his commands, pretending that he is the first person ever to introduce the language of “sit” and “stay.” They know that if they play the part, peanut butter biscuits await. As a fellow peanut butter junkie, I can hardly blame them.



We’ve spent most of this month exploring the city from top to bottom. While we’re still overwhelmed by the poverty and segregation, I think we’ve transitioned to a stage of wanting to learn more than anything else; we’re both in awe of all there is to understand about South Africa– the complexity AND the beauty.  So, we walk and read and talk to people to try and understand this city in particular and societies in transition in general. The education could last a lifetime.

My other, much more mundane but equally massive, task has been trying to register for classes.

When I arrived, the professor assigned to me told me that there was nothing for me to do for two weeks; he gave us the keys to his beach flat and told us to enjoy. Understandably, we obeyed.

When I returned to campus, he said I better get down to the international office because he had no idea how I was going to register and things might get complicated fast. Slightly confused by the switch from the original message of “there’s not a thing to worry about,” I proceeded to the office, where I was told to wait in line. And line. And line after line. At the end of each line, I’ve been told that I’m a strange case, that no one is quite sure what to do with me, and by the way, here’s a form for you to fill out. After you do that, go to that other line over there.

I can’t remember how many forms I’ve filled out at this point. At the end of each rainbow is another. Today, my fifth day of waiting, for what I was convinced would be my final stop and would result in the glorious, much coveted, student ID card, I was turned away with not one, but two forms. The second form was only an idea of a form, one that is stuck in the online world and unable to be downloaded because the server isn’t working properly.  No one knows when my unknown form might be released from the internet onto the world of paper. Until that form comes out of cyberspace, my student profile can’t enter the online system of the University of Cape Town, which is the prerequisite for an ID card. Ironic, I know.

So, here I sit, having read 1,000 pages of three different books while waiting for the ubiquitous ID card and library access. I’m not convinced I’m ever going to get there, and frankly, I’m not even sure I care anymore. No ID card=no tuition bill. I’m not sure why I’m fighting this hard to pay the school money. I think I’m just determined not to let go first. I’m in an arm wrestling match, and I want to win.

Beyond this excitement, I’ve been visiting schools and working with some new colleagues here. It’s wonderful to see students and start learning about the different types of schools here. Again, there is too much to learn. It is intimidating and exciting.

Clearly, I don’t think I’ll leave here having written or discovered anything new for education or for Cape Town. My new humble goal is to leave knowing a few more things about myself.

One thing is for certain: I better leave with the knowledge of how one gets through the university bureaucracy in this country. Oh Lord, hear my prayer.



2 responses

9 02 2010

sounds like you are trapped in a kafka novel. hope you are meeting interesting people trapped in those lines with you.

21 02 2010
Anne Marie

Good luck grasshopper! Just to let you know I’m still checking in and enjoying the trip.

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