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“Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.”

As these words from the Hamilton soundtrack rang through my headphones, they could not have been more fitting. Before me towered the majestic Table Mountain, which spanned the entirety of the skyline and seemed to plunge into the Atlantic. Behind me stood Lion’s Head, Table Mountain’s smaller counterpart, which made for a treacherous yet exhilarating hike. I followed the winding road down to the sandy shore of Camps Bay, where I met up with several other Duke students and we watched the sun slowly sink into the cloudy candy-striped sky.

Moments like the sunset over Camps Bay are among those that I will treasure most from this experience, for I feel simultaneously insulated from the bustle of the sprawling city and overwhelmed by its raw, unadulterated beauty. Although we’ve only been here for two weeks, Cape Town has become my home. I know which potholes to avoid on the sidewalks and exactly how long it takes to get from the gate of our B&B to the front door of the gym in the morning. I can recite the dessert menu at my favorite café from memory. And, most proudly, I have begun to forge friendships with a couple local small business owners. The man at the café knows me as the one with the ridiculous sweet tooth, and the guy at the record store knows me as the one desperately seeking the Dirty Dancing soundtrack on vinyl.

However, with his comfort comes presumption. Presumption of safety, presumption of relative immunity to crime and danger. Despite becoming increasingly more accustomed to life in Cape Town, I know that I still have much to learn and much to be wary of. I am not naïve enough to think myself a local, nor would I be exempt from misfortune if I were. I walk with a purpose through the bustling streets of the city center and I always travel with other students. I am careful to take note of my surroundings—to look around, if you will—and am conscious of where I’ve put my valuable possessions. A couple close encounters with speeding cars or particularly aggressive passersby remind me of how foreign the city is to me, or rather how foreign I am to the city. With every square inch of the city I cover, there is another square mile I’ve yet to explore. The best thing I can do during my limited time here is appreciate the small things, like laughing with a coworker at Sonke, conquering Lion’s Head mountain, and watching the sun disappear into the clouds at Camps Bay.

Camps Bay