He said, “One thing before I graduate, Never let your fear decide your fate.”

Welcome friends, family, Facebook and Twitter stalkers and anyone I told I was going to Cape Town and thinks I’m crazy. I know–what’s a Jewish girl doing in South Africa? A country where using #thirdworldproblems is legitimate, a fast internet connection is a luxury and most of the time you’re questioning the meat you’re eating. But a month after I graduated college, sitting at my desk at my 40+ hour, full time internship where I was making next to nothing, I realized that just because I was 22 and had a degree didn’t mean I needed to start my life right away. Also how boring, right? So after getting accepted into the Connect123 program where I got an (unpaid) internship at a magazine in Cape Town, I had found my next home from September to December of 2013.

15 hours to Johannesburg, 2 hours to Cape Town and an eventful time at the Cape Town airport later (where the airline lost my bag and I was sure all of my belongings were gone forever), I was on my way to my apartment at Perspectives to begin my journey. (My bag was sent to my apartment six hours later, but still).

photo 1

Saying my goodbye outside of JFK Airport

Like everyone who travels and has an opinion, I wanted to start a blog to document my time abroad and be able to share it with friends. But I also think it’s important that people really see what Cape Town is all about (through my perspective, that is). I’m frequently asked about what animals I see and how the safari is, or people are very concerned about my health and wellbeing. I’m not in Tanzania, people! Cape Town may be underdeveloped but it’s still a very modern city. Taking a walk in the Company Gardens feels like you’re walking through Boston Common. Camps Bay beach might as well be in Miami. Long Street in Cape Town could put any Philly citizen at ease because of it’s similarities to South Street. Though very far away, there’s a piece of home in many parts of the city (though I’ll add it’s like 100x more beautiful, sorry not sorry!) Obviously not every part is a dream to look at: there is a lot of poverty, where some sections of the city are filled with shacks for homes. It’s definitely unsafe (see my next blog post where I tell the great story of how my wallet got stolen and I have no idea how it happened). And like every place in the world, you have to be smart about where you’re going when you’re alone. But there’s a lot to learn too, like the culture. For example, everything runs so slowly here, and not just the internet, but the people, businesses, work, etc. You realize early on that no one is in a rush. The whole “time is money,” idea just doesn’t exist. My point is that while the stigma of Cape Town and South Africa is that it’s unsafe, unclean or something Americans could never relate to, it just isn’t the truth. I hope that with this blog, people will get a glimpse of what Cape Town life is really like.


View of Table Mountain and Cape Town

Cape Town is so beautiful. The whole city and nearby islands surround this huge mountain called Table Mountain and Lions Head. A group of us are planning on hiking it sometime this month when it gets nicer out (it’s a 6 hour hike but there’s also a cable car). We’re currently transitioning from Winter to Spring. Everyone on the program was under the impression that it would be an extension of summer once we got here but it is anything but. It’s been 50-60 degrees everyday, and though it’s always sunny, it’s freezing! It’s suppose to get really hot in two weeks so I’m very happy about that.

I live on the 10th floor of an 18th floor building called Perspectives with the other Connect123 members and where the Connect123 office is located. We’re very close to cafes, restaurants and a shopping centre. I like the area even though everything closes early. Everything is incredibly cheap here. 1 American dollars = 10 rands so a big meal and drink is typically 50 rands. Not too shabby.  In the mornings, I walk to my friends’ apartment for a ride to my internship and the walk is an unreal experience: there’s Table Mountain to my right, kids in uniforms going to school on my left, Lion-King looking trees everywhere. It’s like America but… South Africa. I don’t know, I can’t explain it. It’s just unbelievable to think how far away I am from everything. Luckily everything is accessible by walking, bus or taxi so I’m looking forward to checking out the city when I’m more settled in.

So far I’ve been to a lot of restaurants and bars on Long Street. We finally had our first program event at a place called Van Hunks. It was nice to finally see everyone in one place since we’ve all met separately. There’s about 30 people in the program, mostly girls, age ranging 18-26. Most are from America, with a couple from Canada and Panama, but we all have very similar backgrounds and goals. After Van Hunks, we went to a place called Rafickis. At this place called Mama Africa, where an authentic African band played live music, I tried crocodile! Hahaha so kosher, right? On the weekend, though, I went to a beach area called Camps Bay, which was beautiful. We went to a restaurant called Mezopoli Wine & Bar and then took pictures by the water.

Some of Connect 123 awkwardly gathering together at Camps Bay

Some of Connect 123 girls gathering together at Camps Bay



A little embarrassed while the lead singer of the band at Mama Africa serenades me

On our 1 week anniversary of being in Cape Town, my friends and I visited the V&A Waterfront, a popular tourist area near the harbor where people can rent boats, go sailing, and shop. At a restaurant called Willoughby’s and Co., I ordered a thai curry calamari and rice dish and it was served to me in a pan! It was seriously delicious and a really nice treat on my first trip to the Waterfront. If you’re ever feeling homesick, the Waterfront is definitely the best place to go for a little American refresher. You can find a lot of American department stores and boutiques; the Apple store is called iStore (lol). We saw The Heat and when I came out of the movie theatre, I honestly felt like I was in America again.

Eating Thai curry calamari and rice, Willoughby's and Co, the Waterfront.

Eating Thai curry calamari and rice, Willoughby’s and Co, the Waterfront.

This weekend I’m going on a walking tour in the Langa Township. Langa is one of the many areas in South Africa that was designated for Black Africans before the apartheid era. There, we will go on a tour throughout the village to learn about the community’s history and eat different types of meat at Mzoli’s, a very popular meathouse where people come to braai (barbecue). I’m really excited to finally be doing different things and seeing more of the South African culture instead of shopping and going to the bars and restaurants. Unfortunately all of this is happening on Yom Kippur, so this just isn’t the best week to be Jewish. Sorry, mom!

Photo taken in Pick N Pay, supermarket in Cape Town

A local grocery store advertises food for Rosh Hashana!

I have to say the best part about this experience is the people. Everyone here, both the Americans and the South Africans I’ve met, regardless of age or their life story, is just so down to earth and real. When you’re out, everyone just talks to everyone and it’s not weird or out there. They’re not separated by their cliques. Cape Town’s style is really about a care-free, live in the moment kind of life. And the people in the program are so open-minded and down to try new things. It’s so refreshing. Though people here take their time for everything, everyone seems to have the same idea: To never waste a moment being negative and to always appreciate everything you have in your life. And it’s nice to be reminded of that fact everyday while I’m here and I’ll continue to think that these next four months.

What to expect from my next blog entry: My second week in Cape Town, the reason why I didn’t mention anything about my internship, my unlucky Friday night, my experience at the Langa Township and other weird and adventurous stories.

Things I want to accomplish before I write my next post: Learn which way to look when crossing the road (since everything is the opposite), start reading some of the books I brought like Disgrace by South African writer J.M Coetzee, take MORE pictures and stop relying on others to send me theirs, to check out the Green Market Square and (this one probably not by the next post) be more patient.

Thanks so much for visiting my blog! I can’t wait to post more on here because I know I’m just getting started.


PS – The reason I named my blog ‘Anything but Shame’ is because a typical South African saying is ‘shame’ or rather, ‘shaaaaaame.’ It’s used when someone tells someone a story about something bad or horrible happening to you and the person says ‘shame’ as a response to understand or show concern. It’s kind of silly and I’ll probably change it soon.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram for more pictures – @mars_baars


Panorama view from Camps Bay

One comment on “He said, “One thing before I graduate, Never let your fear decide your fate.”

  1. Gina Parisi says:

    Great blog Mara! So happy you are enjoying your experience. As your aunt I have to give you this advice. Look BOTH ways before crossing the street! Love you and look forward to your next blog.

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