Rachel Vernon
Rachel Vernon
South Africa, 2022
Hi, my name is Rachel, I will be going to Cape Town, South Africa for 6 months to work with Volunteer Solutions. I plan to work in elementary schools with sports development and work in a local clinic. Read More About Rachel →

Cape Town quirks

Hello again! These past few weeks have been very laid-back. It has allowed me to read other Lumos travelers’ blogs and enjoy the slow life here. I have also been introduced to some of the challenges of living in Cape Town, such as expensive electricity and water shut-offs. Due to the cost of electricity, the host family turns the hot water on for 4 hours a day, so you have that specific time to shower. In addition, something called “load shedding” is where the electricity in a district turns off for a set amount of time. This is to decrease the financial burden that electricity has on the government. It was fun the first week because we would put our phones away and play cards in the dark. However, as this becomes a reoccurring thing, sometimes three times a day for two hours, it has become very inconvenient. There was also a local pipe burst, so we did not have running water a day, some parts of the city were without running water all week. It makes me appreciate constant hot water and electricity.

Load shedding schedule for the week (subject to change)

Playing cards in the dark during load shedding












The new member of the school

In other news, this week I made it a goal to get to know the staff around school, so here is an introduction to the staff. Dawn, the school janitor, checks on me every day! I missed a day last week, and the next day she made sure to find me and ask if I was alright. Mrs. Samsondeen, the chef in the kitchen, offers me to try the food with the kids. They often have a lot of rice, lentils, mince (beef), and liver. Mr. Anthony, a resource teacher, who takes care of the gardens, janitor duties, and discipline has also been welcoming. He recently brought a pet goose to the school! I also found out they also have pet rabbits. Mr. Anthony’s purpose for beginning animals and planting gardens is to teach the kids how to treat other living things. The children have been taught to kill any animal that comes into their path. Mr. Anthony also told me about a conversation he had with a child. He asked the child “where do eggs come from?”, and they replied, “Well the shop n’ pay, of course.” Mr. Anthony’s goal is to teach the kids that food comes from animals and gardens. Mr. Capp, the school librarian, has been helpful when I need a book to read with the kids. Mrs. Winegard, the principal, and Mrs. Wentzel, the receptionist, are always so nice when I arrive at school. Since I am at the school for a long period of time, it has been nice to get to know the staff better because it makes it feel more like home. 


One of three goodbyes..

Last week was the last week for two of the volunteers, so we enjoyed spending time together. We went to the Mojo market, Seapoint beach, and Bo-Kapp. Saying goodbye was way harder than I expected. I have known Daan for 5 weeks and Kato for 3 weeks, how could I be terribly sad to say goodbye? But after some reflection, I realized that not only do we spend every waking moment together, but we also created a unique connection. Since we are all traveling as solo travelers, we lean on each other in times of stress, sadness, and happiness. The connection with these three volunteers is unforgettable and I hope to travel to Italy, Belgium, and the Netherlands to visit them one day!

Enjoying a Samosa in Bo-Kapp



On Monday, September 12th, I went into town to apply for a visa extension. As a tourist, you are allowed a 90 visa, but to stay longer you need to apply for a 90-day extension. This has been a tedious process, but everything was turned in and now I just wait to hear back. After my appointment, I decided to explore the city center by myself. I have been nervous to explore alone, but I was inspired by my mom, who will be exploring England, Belgium, and Germany by herself in October while my dad works. If she can travel by herself, I can too! While walking by myself, I didn’t know what to think about or which way to go. I got to choose how fast I walked, where I stopped to eat, how long I took to eat, etc. It was a refreshing and rewarding feeling. During this time, I did some reflecting. Here is what I learned:

  • What I am doing is crazy! Crazy cool and crazy awesome but also just crazy! I downplayed the fact that I had moved to South Africa because it is the wealthiest country in Africa and very westernized. But I reminded myself that it doesn’t change how difficult this trip is. I am alone, in another country, 8,500 miles away from home. That is nothing small! So I am very proud of myself for going on a trip like this. I have learned to give myself more grace when it comes to being sad or anxious.
  • Growth stinks! It is uncomfortable and overwhelming, but as I have grown over the last five years, I love who I have become! I am proud of my accomplishments and the relationships I have made. Growth is so necessary!
  • Being still is not easy for a busybody like me! I always had something to do in college, between practice, eating on the fly, and school. But while I have been here, I have been able to slow down. When I feel the need to get up and do something, I have challenged myself to stay still a little longer. It has been uncomfortable, but very recharging. 


People have been asking what the culture is like, and that is a good question! Some of the things I have learned about the culture here include:

  • Time is slow, family is important, physical space is little, and sharing is often. 
  • The pace of life is kind of like flying by the seat of your pants and letting the wind take you where you need to go. For example, Auntie V decides what to make for dinner at 1 pm each day, and always has food ready by 5:30 pm! 
  • Family is so important! I have witnessed the love and respect that each of the family members has for one another. For example, Jade told me about an amazing job opportunity she had but turned it down because it was more important to her that she spends weekends with her daughter than the pay raise. 
  • Diverse cultures are very accepted. The terms for different races include, colored (an olive skin color), black, and white. Also, there is a large Muslim population. They were originally brought over by the British for slavery and confined to the Bo-Kapp area. After the apartheid, they expanded beyond that area and have grown communities all over the Western Cape (which is one of the providences of South Africa). 
  • Teachers at lower-funded, government schools have a stronger relationship with their students. These children may not have a strong support system at home, so the teachers play a big role in their support system. This creates a less professional and more familial environment. Teachers speak to the children in a motherly/fatherly tone, rather than what I am used to in the US. I am so glad I am here for an extended period because it allows me to form strong relationships with the kids, much like the teachers. However, as I have seen the volunteers leave, it makes leaving that much harder. So thank goodness, I still have four months left! 
  • The kids are also so willing to help and share! I have been impressed with the number of students that come up and offer me the food they are eating. It is hard to say no because they feel offended, but I know they need that food to fill their bellies. 


Sorry, this was a little long, I hope you enjoy the update!


3 thoughts on “Cape Town quirks”

  1. Rachel, as I read your post it feels like I am right there with you sitting on a park bench. Your descriptions of the people and life in Cape Town are beautiful! What an incredible trip you are on and I am so glad you got this opportunity!

  2. I agree with your mama! You are such a good writer. I’m expecting a book when you get home. Reading your words makes me smile! I’m so proud of you and excited to for your to be my tour guide in a few weeks! So excited for all the things you’re doing!

  3. Hi Rachel! As you know, we were visiting your parents and some friends for a few days. I looked for your letter on Saturday, but the print was too small/difficult to read so we waited until we got home. We love to read your letters and this one is no exception! You certainly are using your time there to do some serious introspection and also as a way to make lots of new friends. We are so glad that you are enjoying all of it! We are glad you have invested time with the staff as well as the children. We are already looking forward to the next letter!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *