Zoe Kusnick arrives in South Africa

As someone who has lived in the same country, state, and town my entire life, I definitely experienced culture shock when arriving in Cape Town, South Africa. Even in a ten-minute drive through the city, it is impossible not to recognize the differences between here and San Francisco. One of the first things I saw, on my drive home from the Cape Town airport, was of one of the largest townships around. Townships are large villages where people have built their own shacks out of whatever they can find. It was a phenomenon I had never seen in the Bay Area. It was hard to see so many people struggling, and it made me realize that I often take my life for granted. While I realize I am fortunate even in my own area, it is a whole different reality in many places all over the world.

Zoe Kusnick townshp

Another thing living in Cape Town has helped me realize is how dependent I am on electricity. A couple times a week, different parts of South Africa are subject to something called “Load Shedding.” During load shedding, the power goes out for two hours. This is used to conserve energyZoe Kusnick load shedding for the country, however, it can be very inconvenient. It is winter here and this country has much more rain and wind than California, so being without heat can be very, very cold. Driving through a town during load shedding feels a bit like going into a ghost town. Although load shedding can be a hassle, I appreciate the forced opportunity to find entertainment off of a screen. For me, load shedding has consistently involved heaps of candles and board games. It’s not my first choice, but it helps you get creative.

While living in South Africa has inconveniences I would have never thought of, its multicultural population is something I love. Just at Bridge House, the tiny school outside of Cape Town I attend, I have met students from France, Germany, Dubai, Holland, and more. Having students from all corners of the world brings colorful conversation both academically and among students outside the classroom. I know that the inner city is well known for its diversity, and I am happy to even experience a taste of it in the small town of Franschoek. I love this diversity as much as I love the stunning mountains, the rainy weather, and the Afrikaans words I attempt to learn.