21/08/14 “We don’t walk, we dance”
Despite the flight being 11 hours through the night, it was surprisingly fine. I’d already eaten with Dad who came to meet me and see me off. He’s most likely going to pick me up at the airport when I land back there in a couple of months and drive me back home. I watched Game Of Thrones, and a few Marvel movies on the movies library and then the sunrise woke me up by almost blinding me through my closed eyelids, and I saw the desert beneath me 40,000 ft below. I’ve never seen a desert before and it was hard to describe the texture of it, the only thing that was constant about it was that it never seemed to end. It stretched for miles, sometimes level as a salt flat, sometimes as craggy and uneven as shards of broken glass.
The ride through the city from the airport revealed that no matter where you are, Table Mountain’s immense beautiful shape will dominate the skyline, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. And it turns out it will not take its eyes off me whilst I am here. My south-facing window takes up the whole wall, and beyond the huge golf course full of birds, the mountain creates a panoramic view that leaves no room for anything else. And at work, I’m situated even closer to the foot of it, the moment I go outside, it takes up every inch of horizon that is visible between the buildings. Its unbelievably beautiful. And I’m going to go to the summit.
Facing north from my hotel is the fierce sea line. It slams and crashes ferociously and constantly, and it churns up the most beautiful shells everyday, quite literally creating a layer of them several inches deep across the whole beach. My favourites are the rarer large ones, larger than the palm of my hand, dish-shaped and the most fantastic colours of the rainbow, looking exactly like a huge opal. I plan on collecting as many of them that I can on my morning scouts on the shore.
There’s a shopping mall up the road, 20 minutes walk. Its not my kind of place really, its definitely nice from a consumerist aesthetic. Gourmet restaurants on the habourside, fairy-light wrapped palm trees, a sparkling ferris wheel just like the one on Torquay seafront, and tons and tons of designer shops from Gucci to Louis Vuitton to Kurt Geiger. On the ground floor there’s a supermarket thats reasonably priced so picked up some oat bread, butter, blossom honey, vanilla and chocolate yogurt (pronounced the american way) and some baked granola and iced peach tea (they have a lot of iced tea brands here). There’s loads of african souvenir shops but all horrendously overpriced (pretty sure they’re either factory-made or exploiting poverty-production). I want to find some markets that sell them for cheaper and also not the mass-produced kind, I want to buy things handmade by the stall owners.
However there was one shop that did nearly have me blowing all my money within the first day. A place called Tea Merchant, a beautifully laid out shop with hundreds of different types of fruit and herbal teas sampled in glass teapots showing the rich colours of the tea with glass candle warmer dishes underneath. The tea was packaged in pastel coloured tins between 250g to huge 10kg tins that lined the shelves, smelling absolutely divine. There was also loads of stunning teapots, including traditional metal teapots and japanese tiny tea sets. It took a lot of self-restraint not to buy my own glass teapot and warmer. I’m going to treat myself to a chai blend when I can.
Picked up a local sim for pennies and headed back to my hotel. There’s no wifi access unless I pay, but the 1GB of data that came with my sim does fine for the odd message to Shaun on Facebook. My apartment is lovely, top floor with a balcony and the huge window facing the mountain, a small kitchen, a large bathroom, a huge bed and a TV. I plan on buying lots of local curiosities to brighten it up, my bed headboard is already lined with my first batch of seashells.
I’ve already seen loads of birds just around my hotel, quite a lot I don’t recognise, large black seabirds with traffic light red long thin bills and orange spindly legs, soft dark gray inquisitive corvids with bright red wing-tips that look amazing when they take flight. Large black-gray ugly pheasant-like things that invade the golf course with the most hilarious run, they look like fast remote-control cars. There are gorgeous doves the colour of storm clouds with red and white markings on my balcony. There’s familiar species too, indignant squawking little gulls, and very proud trilling starlings on my balcony table, iridescent as petrol on wet tarmac. And tiny soft downy curious yellow pied wagtails with quick walks and butter coloured wings.
First day at work tomorrow, tucked in bed with Into The Wild and organic rooibos tea with honey (my chapter title was taken from some posters that greeted me in the airport).
Note: Things I want to buy/do - Tea, as many varieties as I can. A good teapot. A wool shrug/poncho. Scented candles + a lighter. A blanket/rug. Original artwork of penguins and cheetahs. Try new foods. Find a cheaper supermarket. A local bird species book.
22/08/14: “We’ll even play Hakuna Matata if you want!”
Woke today to a thick mist over the sea and mountain, slept really well, the bed is very soft. I was told not to come in till gone 10am so I went down to the beach and collected more shells in the morning sun. I caught a taxi over to work, but my colleagues were shocked when I told them the fare (equivalent of a fiver?) and my supervisor got on the phone and it turns out my boss might sort me out a car?! I hope so cause that means I can find my way around, Boulders Beach, market and cable car to mountain summit here I come!
My first day was incredible, the workshop is 4 floors of makeup fx school, moulding rooms, sculpting rooms, fabrication rooms, silicone, lifecasting, tools, clay, its heaven for fx enthusiasts. I was put to work straightaway on sculpting, which at first made me sick with fear about doing well, but my supervisor seems pleased with me, he says they need sculptors more than anything else, so I need to make sure I brush up on my claywork. The most common regulars in the shop are students, girls all my age, loud and chattery, they were really excited to give me my first SA beer at the end of the day and they tease me mercilessly about my pronunciation of their names and afrikaans words, which I do deserve admittedly. The day went fast because I was zoned out sculpting, with the mountain watching me through the window. The girls chat all the time and listen to Radio Rock and at one point there was a request hour and the DJ said he’d play anything, even Hakuna Matata (which did come on later on, much to my amusement).
There’s a much cheaper supermarket near work, so I picked up lots of food. Going to get mum to send me a hamper of something. There’s another Gorton graduate on her way in, so I’ll be able to go to work with her. Other than that, not much to report from today, except that a very noisy Eygptian goose woke me up and I froze my milk because apparently anything above the setting 1 is freezer temperatures. But frozen yogurt is SO GOOD.
Everything is so awesome that I’m scared something is going to go wrong. But I watched Kiki’s Delivery Service tonight and I realised just how much I can relate to it right now, leaving home and flying to a city by the sea to get my proper training and experience, and earn my keep out here. You gotta wobble before you stand <3
Notes on words picked up: Kif - Cool. Lekker - Sweet/Neat. Bergies - Homeless/tramps. Howzit. Praat yay englis - Do you speak english? Ek virstaan nee - I don’t understand. Totseens - Bye. Dangkee - Thank you. Asibleef - Please. Robots - Traffic lights (yes seriously).
23/08/14 - “Jambo!”
First full day in the workshop, sculpted some more, its a really relaxed atmosphere with music and chatter. I also assisted on two lifecasts with a Kenyan father and daughter flown in who will be extras in the film. The little girl was the cutest little thing, and so brave for getting her front open-mouth lifecast and teeth cast done without any hint of a fuss. I entertained her by spinning and pushing her around on a wheeled chair whilst her dad got a scar stamp done. She laughed her head off when I tried to say hello (jambo) in swahili.
I’ve been told a lot more about the places I can go around here. There’s a festival for humpback whale watching, the season for them breeding is end of September, so I can see whales for the first time in my life. There’s also a cheetah sanctuary about 25 minutes from the town centre next to a wine farm, and if you pay a tiny fee you can play with the cubs as well as the adults !!!! I’ve also been told there’s ostrich riding (?!) That and the aquarium and and the bird zoo. And of course the colony of penguins on Boulders Beach :3
I really hope I get a car sorted for me, then I can go out to the locations far out, particularly the cheetah sanctuary. Also after browsing the iTunes on Ellie’s old macbook that Nigel has lent me for the duration, I decided to resync my iPod, she has every soundtrack under the sun, I’ve been dancing around my apartment like a loon.
24/08/14: “The Big Five”
Today was my first Sunday here, and after waking before 8am, I got ready and got out by 9 (no steady internet access saves so much time!) I walked up to Sea Point around the edge of the coast, watching this several thousand strong walk titled ‘Blisters For Bread’, all walking the length of the west coastline for charity. The weather was absolutely beautiful. I explored Sea Point until I managed to get my hands on a bus card and then caught a bus straight to Hout Bay.
Note here: Sea Point may have weirdos shouting marriage proposals whilst hanging off the back of trucks, but its got good cheap shops for useful resources that aren’t necessarily food.
The bus route to Sea Front was breathtakingly gorgeous. It went snaking up the very edge of cliff and sea with the mountainside on the flank with its fantastic landscapes. Hout Bay itself is a lovely more rural area and the market was much better than what I’d been previously looking at in the expensive shops. Colourful bustling stalls with products homemade by the stall owners, beaded jewellery, bright cushion covers, carved animals made of wood and gemstone, wall hangings, patterned ceramics, carvings, local clothing, native flowers recreated in glass beads, nearly everything decorated with patterns and prints of what they called The Big Five, Elephant, Rhino, Wildebeest, Lion and Cheetah. I bought a carved cheetah, a baobab tree necklace, a hand-carved bow and arrows, glass bead flowers of the Table Mountain natives Erica and Disa, an original canvas painting of baobab trees on the savannah in the sunset, a blue mug with elephants on it, a huge amber choke and a rough china oil burner made from savannah soil styled in the shape of a traditional tribal mud hut with orange blossom oils for burning.
One of the stall owners was a woman who moved from Birmingham the year I was born, but she still had a Brummie accent, and joked it was sods law she’d moved all the way out here and still had ‘the worst accent in the UK’, whilst her husband joked he’d managed to marry the only Brummie in Cape Town. They had an adopted native daughter who was unravelling all her mother’s bubble wrap for the ceramics she was selling and playing in it. The couple got very chatty and were very friendly and told me a lot of advice and and places to go. Our conversation attracted a few more people with England roots who all chipped in and listened to my story of why I was in SA with gracious and keen interest. This couple originally from Surrey gave me their 22 year old daughters number as well as their own, said I should meet up with their daughter who loves film, and also to get in touch should I have an emergency. I was really touched by their concern and kindness.
They gave me the number and location of the Seal Island cruises around the corner at the seafront and I jogged down the road, taking a running shortcut through white sand dunes. There were seals everywhere in the harbour, bothering the fishermen and eating the scraps that got thrown into the water when they gutted a fish. There was a small but very busy fishing industry in the harbour, small crowded boats bringing in huge batches of fish longer than my armspan being sold straight from the boats freshly gutted to large crowds with chaotic shouts and bartering as they were flopped up unceremoniously on the harbourside. The seals played up and did tricks for the delight of the tourists such as leaping out of the water and grabbing scrap meat off the beggar boys, and flipping upside down in the water and waving their back flippers in the air.
The Seal Island cruise was incredible, less than a fiver for it, it sailed out into crystal clear turquoise waters which were really choppy so it made for an exciting journey of the ship being tossed about by the huge swells, a lot of the other passengers were screaming, but I was cheering like a loon and hanging over the edge of the railing. The seals were hilarious to watch, they covered inch of this small craggy rocky outcrop only few hundred feet from the shore of the foot of the cliffs, hundreds of them frothing the water around the boat, loads of babies scrambling up and down the rocks and getting knocked back into the water by the huge waves. They are basically sea dogs, happy, clumsy, playful and daft as well as clever.
After the cruise I went to sit on the beach and play on the dunes, the sand was wonderfully soft. The beach was relatively busy, but the steep dunes behind me were apparently deserted. I sat on the edge of dunes and beach and took some photos. However thats when I had my first negative experience since I arrived. A dozen native children came running across the sand, barefoot, shouting and several stray dogs running with them, the oldest maybe 13, the youngest about 4. They saw me sitting by myself and at first demanded photos to be taken of them, but then started saying english swearwords repetitively. They came right up to me stood over me whilst I was still sat down, and started asking for money, either not understanding my replies of how I had no money left from shopping, or ignoring me, then they started tapping my shoulder one side, and pulling my camera strap the other side and circled around me and lent over to reach for my shopping bags whilst standing on my feet. Before I had time to think, one of the dads from the afrikaans families on the beach came running up the dunes bellowing at them, and they all scarpered, ran about 100ft and then all turned around to watch me. The man took me back down to his family sat on the beach and said he thought I was a local cause I looked like one, and then a few more families, some of them originally from London, came over after seeing what had happened, and they all cautioned me on how to spot people from the shanty towns (townships) and that the children were the boldest, even if they wouldn’t physically hurt me. Its sad seeing kids that young who have been taught to behave that way, or feel like they have to live that way. Apparently one of their induction rituals to their gangs involves robbing someone. Its definitely sobered me up to be a bit more streetwise, I’d seen plenty of bergies in town (homeless) but they’d mainly kept to themselves.
After that, given the fact I had spent all the money I’d bought with me and I hadn’t eaten for 7 hours, I caught the bus back to my hotel. On the green outside my hotel there were absolutely tons of beautiful dogs and puppies on the grass in the sunset. A vast soft St Benard who sat on my feet, a really enthusiastic harlequin Great Dane who nearly knocked me flat, a black Airedale terrier, a whole litter of 7 week old puggle pups, a tiny palm-sized pug puppy, and the best thing, a teeny chocolate-coloured daschund puppy who took such a shine to me that she tried to follow me back, and when this overfriendly Scottie dog nearly knocked her over, she whimpered and ran under my bent knees and hid behind my ankles and peeped out between my feet. It took a lot of will to pick her up and give her back to her confused owner, he said she’s never been that taken with a stranger before. I wanted to keep her so badly!
Work has been ticking over fine, turns out my boss’s partner has a very well-behaved dainty little cat who she brings to work everyday with a harness and leash. Her name is Yoko and she’s the prettiest little torteishell who either sleeps in the sculpting room next to her owner and steps all over our laptops, or she explores the whole workshop and occasionally bothers one of us for a cuddle and tries to steal my feathers. I was playing hide and seek with her at the end of the day.
The next Gorton graduate has arrived and her name is Laura, she made this awesome zombie for her final project, a half-torso with its guts hanging out and a diseased face. She’s very lovely to talk to and its nice to have someone to talk to properly, she loves zombies and we’ve nattered all day. I’ve been put on what I do best since the workshop is still new and freshly moved into: tidying up and sorting it all out. Its therapeutic and time flies and I’m enjoying it. May buy some clay and stuff from the excellent little shop on the 2nd floor to play with outside of work and speed up my sculpting skills.
Also Laura is staying in a 2 bedroom room in a different hotel that is actually even nicer than mine, and her fellow student may not make it over because she’s having issues with her visa, so we’re going to talk to the accommodation co-ordinator and ask about possibly moving me in with her up the road. Its worth a shot anyhow, it will be nice to have a flatmate and some company.
Getting a lot of early nights, because I am so tired at the end of the day. Also, I’ve started saying ‘yaa’ instead of ‘yeah’. ITS BEGUN.
current status: not being kissed or riding a dragon this is unacceptable
where does marvel find all these uncomfortably similar-looking actors named chris?
PROOF OF A CHRIS VAULT:
This made me think of Kia xD