The grassroots commute: Life of an intern in Cape Town CBD

Green Cycle Map in hand, I began the last leg of my journey

I was tasked to take the bus to Woodstock to fetch the company bike and cycle back. It may sound simple enough but………

The Cape Town CBD is a hub of culture, chaos and commercial activity. Cars, busses, trains and crowds of people migrate to the city every day to earn a living.  
 
By 8am the CBD is buzzing with businessmen, artists, tradesmen, coffee connoisseurs, and the usual bibbed ‘gold for cash’ sellers trying to reel you in. At the lowest, grassroots level of the business pecking order is the intern. One may not be able to distinguish them on the streets but in the office they can often be recognized by their overtly enthusiastic behaviour and tendency to put their hand up for anything and everything.
 
About a week ago I became an intern and, in only ten working days, my eyes have been widened and I have had to become more city savvy.   
 
Since the start of my internship I have been trying to learn the ropes, wear something other than extra-casual clothing, and figure out how to be a professional in the Mother City. Previously, my interaction with the CBD was always after dark and solely involved dinner, drinks and a bit of dancing. Facing the CBD by day is a whole different story and I was thrown in the deep end from day one. 
 
In the first week of my internship I was as eager as can be. It was my first job ever and I was at work as early as possible. I would sit at my little desk waiting for tasks to be flung at me. But on my second day I was lobbed an assignment that I did not quite expect to be in my job description.
 
I was tasked to take the bus to Woodstock to fetch the company bike and cycle back. It may sound simple enough but, as I stared down at my skirt and tights, the anxiety flushed through my face.  I am not too sure how this task came about but I think that someone may have caught wind that I had never used public transport in Cape Town before. Either that or this was a test of my character. Nervously rising to the occasion, I went on my way in search of a bus and a bike and some courage. 
 
On arrival at the bus stop, I tried to act natural but my tourist-like naivety was bluntly noticed. A woman approached me to offer advice and lead me into her office where we huddled around the MyCiti map routing out my journey. We shared a toilet roll for our winter sniffles and she gave me confidence in my journey.  
 
With my golden ticket (a shiny new MyCiTi bus card) I was on my way.
 
Watching the world go by from a bus was intriguing. I had time to take it all in. Usually I would be too busy hooting at taxis or manoeuvring my way through the small streets of the CBD trying to dodge the vendors. 
 
On arrival at my destination I was greeted by a green open space. I had driven past it countless times but had never given it a second glance.  Trafalgar Park is a layered expanse of nature, history and fun nestled in vibey Woodstock. I sat on a bench with a view of Table Mountain and watched kids hurdling through jungle gyms and employees happily lunching on the lawns. Eighteenth century cannons are scattered around the park and it made me think about the different layers of history that traversed this space. 
 
Finally I made it to the bicycle shop, Woodstock Cycle Works.  I walked in and was overwhelmed by this warehouse of quality coffee smells and hipsters for handymen. Hundreds of bicycles enveloped the room in organized disorder. As I waited for my bicycle I imagined I would be rolling off in one of those old-school cool, wide-handled bikes with the North West winter wind in my hair.
 
To my surprise I was handed the brightest yellow mountain bike that happened to match my outrageously yellow helmet. 
 
With my skirt hiked up, and my Green Cycle Map in hand, I began the last leg of my journey.
I had always been a bit afraid of cycling in the city.  I always thought I would feel vulnerable and exposed but, it turns out I felt the opposite. Cycling gave me a sense of freedom and independence. I whizzed past the traffic jams and smiled at my fellow riders and skateboarders. My senses were heightened to the smells, sounds and sites and I loved every minute of life in the CBD. 
 
Being an intern is not easy but it exposes you to great opportunities to experience the city and to open your mind to new views.  Cape Town has so much to offer and sometimes it takes breaking your routine and boundaries to reap the rewards.
 
Since this escapade my car has taken a back seat and I have been taking the MyCiti bus to and from work.
 
Additionally, a bicycle is on the cards when I can fit it into my interns’ budget. I feel as though my commute is helping the world in a little way and is allowing me to connect with more people and places. I wish I had been in pursuit of the commute a lot earlier. 
 
Tiffany Chalmers: Cape Town Green Map Intern