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When the plane touched down in Cape Town, the city felt otherworldly. After a couple of weeks here, it feels small.

I recently remarked to one of my colleagues that it seems impossible that there are millions of people in this city. I wonder if that is due to the way Cape Town is structured, particularly how it was divided under the apartheid system. In our initial drive from the airport, we passed by miles of slums that were hastily covered by the facade of houses, buildings supposedly constructed during the World Cup to obstruct the poverty in this country. I remember wondering how many people lived in those areas. Google says that just the township of Khayelitsha has nearly 400,000 residents.

Perhaps this feeling is more than that, perhaps it dependent on the way we function in the “mother city.” Life in Cape Town feels very much constructed between our guest house and the city center. It’s almost as if the rest of the city doesn’t exist. When my coworkers discuss whether traffic will be bad getting home, I find it difficult to conceptualize their concerns. During the weekdays, we never venture beyond Kloof and Long Street, the same two roads we walk through to get to work. I could probably walk through most of my day with a blindfold on.

Although it isn’t directly comparable to life at college, I feel like I am falling into the same bubbled routine that I find during the semesters. There are card games and netflix shows and papers to write. We eat in trendy restaurants with the same free range chicken and green containers that are offered in the dining hall. Even the parts of Cape Town that are different have become normalized. I can get chai lattes with almond milk from a cafe that homeless people sleep in front of during winter nights.

There is something alarming about how settled I already feel here. Am I becoming desensitized to the opportunity that I spent nearly a year thinking about? The sprawling background of majestic mountains no longer catches the same wonder it did when I first saw it through a plane window. The children begging in the street are easier to turn away…