Unfortunately, I am no longer in South Africa. I left last night around 6:45pm (SA time) and am now sitting in the London airport waiting for my connecting flight.
This past week was absolutely amazing. Last weekend three other girls in our group and I decided to take a little road trip. It was our last weekend and we wanted to go out with a bang. We left on Saturday morning at 4am and headed to the airport to pick up our rental car. Yes, we drove on the other side of the road, on the other side of the car. It was surprisingly not that difficult to get used to. We headed across the Garden Route into the Eastern Cape. With Amanda's speedy driving for the first few hours, we were able to make it to Tsitsikamma Park in just under 6 hours. When we arrived we walked to the suspension bridge and stuck our toes in the Indian Ocean. It's a truly beautiful place.
We then headed out to Bloukran's Bridge. This is where the World's Tallest Bungee Jump is located. Standing 216 meters above the ground (720 ft give or take), it is the most beautiful view and scariest sight I have ever experienced. I asked every possible question that I could have asked as I was shaking in my shoes the whole time. We walked across a terrifying metal bridge located underneath Bloukran's Bridge to get to the arch that we were meant to jump off of. They were blasting hip hop music the whole time and I was freaking out. Needless to say, they had to push me off the bridge but I did it. Soaring through the air for the first five seconds before you feel your feet actually attached to the rope was like flying. I felt like I was actually committing suicide. Never been so frightened in my life. But it was definitely one of the most amazing experiences of my entire life. We had lunch and purchased our photos and videos afterwards and then were on our way to Plettenberg. We enjoyed a nice dinner overlooking the water and stayed at a hostel. It was a four person room with a bathroom, carpets, and heating. Definitely not what I had in mind when Amanda told me where we were staying. It was so nice.
We woke up bright and early the next morning and rode elephants! It was awesome. Of course we couldn't sit on them by ourselves but they are really incredible animals. I enjoyed every minute of it.
We headed back to Cape Town that morning and had a brye that Ainsley's mom prepared for us. It was delicious. I prepared for my presentation on Monday and it went surprisingly well. This week we had our 20 page paper due and I am so relieved to have that finished. We had a farewell lunch in Stellenbosch yesterday and all went out to dinner on the waterfront.
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It has been a longgggg week. I guess I should start with the 4th of July. We went downtown to a club where they were hosting just Americans for the evening which meant that it was pretty much empty. But, it was fun to hangout with the group from Vanderbilt for the night and listen to American music. Other than that, we didn't really celebrate.
This week we started tutoring 9th grade students in Khayelitsha. I was paired with a group of four rowdy 15 year olds. They are quite the handful. Although they can get loud and competitive when we're playing games, they are so cooperative and eager to learn when we're doing work. The two-week tutoring session is called the Holiday Project and SHAWCO runs it every year. They do an hour of tutoring every day and an hour of "playtime" which we have filled with various games, talent shows, and crafts. It has been a whole lot of fun. This week we covered English and starting tomorrow, we'll do math. On Tuesday I was sick and had to stay at home and one of the boys in my group made me a get well card after only knowing me for one day, that was pretty cool.
This weekend we went on our Homestay to a very small town called Pniel which is about 40 minutes outside of Cape Town. This is one of those small towns where everyone knows each other and everyone seems to be related in some way or another. It was great. We arrived just before noon yesterday (Saturday) and met Denise and Winston who run the homestay program. They had three little girls who were just precious. They also had a tiny kitten which of course made me happy. "Uncle Eddie" gave us a three hour walking tour of Pniel which included walking from one end of town to the other. For some reason, it was nearly 80 degrees. We were all in long pants and long sleeves because it's been 50-60 the past four weeks so we were a little uncomfortable. But, the tour was gorgeous. Everyone waves or honks their horn when they pass by and apparently there is zero crime in town. We also played a game which is similar to botchee ball (spelling?). When we got back to the house, we were all exhausted so we took a nap and then had a traditional Brye with the family. This is very similar to barbecue in the United States. Denise made quite the feast for us and we were all stuffed. After that they took us to meet the families that we would be staying with for the evening. Ryan, Taryn, and I went together to a house and the woman we stayed with was incredibly hospitable and friendly. We chatted with her for a while and then went to bed fairly early.
This morning we went to church in Pniel at 7:30am. None of us have woken up that early all month so it was a little painful. But, the service was absolutely beautiful. I spoke to the congregation about our group and our purpose here in South Africa. I got a ton of compliments on my speaking abilities so thank you COMM 2004 Public Speaking at VT! After church we had breakfast, took a nap, had lunch (they wouldn't stop feeding us) and then walked down to the Winery. In the town of Pniel, at least two people out of every family works at the winery. They're known for their wine in all of South Africa, specifically their Sauvignon Blanc. We went wine tasting (5 wines for less than 3 US dollars...) and it was a beautiful day.
I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July and I will be celebrating Nelson Mandela day here shortly!
I can't believe that two weeks from today I'll be sitting at home in Arlington.
This blogging thing is unfortunately becoming a once a week think and I'm sorry! I always have lots to say by this point though so expect this to be pretty lengthy.
This past week was our 2nd and last week of IT training with the adults in Khayelitsha. They now all have email accounts, and facebook pages. They can operate Microsoft Word and have an up-to-date resume. Pretty impressive for two weeks, huh? On Friday, we had our farewell with them and both my friends that I was working with wrote me notes goodbye. Corentia thanked me for all my hard work and everything I taught her. Thozama mentioned how patient I was with her and how everything she learned was so valuable to her. Patient? Me? Mission accomplished! I never thought I'd see this day. It honestly shocked me how much of an impact I had on their lives - not to mention the amazing impact they've had on mine. I hope to keep in touch with these two inspiring women, now that they have email accounts!
This week we start tutoring sessions in the same township. Our group has been paired with 9th graders which means I have to remember 9th grade math...this is going to be interesting. Maybe they'll end up tutoring me.
Last Wednesday we went out to a restaurant called Mama Africa. It's known for being a very touristy place to go but we wanted to explore some different foods. Traditionally, South Africa does have some native dishes but they really do eat similar foods to what we eat in the States. I ordered mango chicken kebabs simply because that sounded perfect to me. But, I did taste someone else's crocodile and ostrich! I've never been known to be an adventurous eater so I'm sure this surprises all of you. I enjoyed both of them but definitely the ostrich more. The dinner included live entertainment from an African band. They were really good and played, "the lion sleeps tonight." It was really fun. After dinner we headed down to Long Street Cafe for Karaoke Night! Taryn, Jill, Ryan, and I sang, "I've had the time of my life," from Dirty Dancing and it was a huge hit. Everyone was standing, singing along, and cheered loudly for us at the end.
This weekend was yet again, amazing like the past. On Saturday we went to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. This is the southern and western most part of Africa and is also where the Atlantic meets the Indian Ocean. We saw baboons from the car, which was pretty funny but I'm glad I was in the car because I've heard that they're known to be pretty vicious animals. We hiked out to the point and as soon as we got there, it started to pour. It was pretty funny yet incredibly beautiful. The views were breathtaking. I'm sure it would have been gorgeous on a sunny day but there is just something about the rain. During our hike we rain into a wild ostrich along the path. Joe apologized for eating him at dinner the other night, the group got a laugh out of that. When in South Africa...animals aren't just at the zoo...
Saturday we also went to Boulder Beach which is where the wild penguins are! They are just too cute. We saw a bunch of them pretty up close and tons on boulders out in the water. The beach was beautiful and the boulders were enormous, hence the name.
Today we went downtown into Cape Town for Indian food. There is a pretty large Indian population in South Africa and lots of delicious Indian food. Tandoori chicken, naan bread, and rice for 7 dollars? Not bad at all.
After lunch I headed down to Claremont to meet up with an old friend that I worked with at Camp Horizons. David's first year working at camp I was a camper, the following summer I was a counselor-in-training, and the third summer we were working together as counselors. He is originally from Johannesburg and currently living in Brisbane, Australia but is in Cape Town for the week with his mom. I met up with the two of them and had a cup of coffee. We then headed up to Signal Hill to watch the sunset. It was gorgeous and we could see all of the city from there. We went out to dinner after and all enjoyed a heaping plate of prawns soaked in garlic butter. Definitely did not have anything to complain about today. It's always great catching up with old friends and we were both just in shock that we were both in South Africa at the same time.
We have big plans for the 4th tomorrow and I'm excited to celebrate America's independence with other American students here!
Sorry I haven't been a very good blogger, the internet isn't great in our house and we don't make it to the internet cafe very often. I had a really great week and have enjoyed my time in the township doing IT training. Two new groups arrived this past week from the US and are also working with SHAWCO in various internships and townships. One group is from Vanderbilt and one is from William & Mary. We went over to the Vanderbilt house on Thursday night and hung out with them for a while. It was weird being with so many Americans but it definitely felt like a Friday night in Blacksburg. We ended up going down to Long Street with them on Friday night too, it was a lot of fun.
Friday during the day at Khayelitsha we introduced the Internet to our participants. Some of these people are 40 years old and are just now creating their first email accounts. It was so cool seeing the smiles on their faces when they would receive an email from someone across the room. The whole room was emailing each other for two hours and it was just such a happy atmosphere. This week they'll get Facebook accounts and they are extremely excited about it. I realize that we're probably making a huge impact on these people's lives because they now have resumes and email accounts. But, I really feel like they're going to end up making a bigger impact on my life. I have become a much more patient person in just a week's time and am looking forward to the duration of my time with these people. One of my friends, Thozama is 37 and has two children and she always talks about how proud they are of their Mom. How sweet. On Friday she said to me, "so after this week, you're not coming back?" and I told her that I'd be working with the Holiday Project run by SHAWCO in Khayelitsha but tutoring children. She said, "so I might not ever see you again? You're not coming back?" I can't believe how close I've gotten to this woman in just one week. She has touched my life and I'll never forget my experience with her and Corentia.
On Saturday, we had a planned excursion out to Robben Island. This was where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 years (he was held on the mainland for 9 years afterwards totaling 27 years in prison). I saw his cell, where he would play sports with his fellow inmates, and where he wrote his book. He is such an incredible man. Our tour guide has also given tours to Bill Cosby, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton. Michelle was meant to have her tour last week but the weather didn't hold up.
TODAY was probably the best day I've had here. Despite my fear of sharks, and unwillingness to EVER watch Jaws, I decided to go shark cage diving with three other girls from our group. The company picked us up this morning around 8:30am and we had a two-hour bus ride out to Gansbaai. We were given a safety lesson (which probably would have been four times as long in the States) and got on the water shortly after we arrived. We had an insanely bumpy ride out to the cage and I saw some of the biggest waves I'd ever seen. The Atlantic Ocean is gorgeous. Ryan, Taryn, Jill, and our French friend, Alex were the second group to get in the cage. They nicknamed us the "screamers" because we literally were screaming the entire time. It was terrifying. We saw a total of five different sharks and they were all Great Whites. Where we were is home to the 3rd largest population of Great Whites in the entire world. The largest one we saw was about 12 feet long, but the pictures don't do it justice. I have never been so scared and excited at the same time. It was so much fun, I had the time of my life. Shoutout to Ryan so she will stop asking for a shoutout.
It's chilly here and the water was about 50 degrees, along with the air temperature so I was of course freezing today but it was so worth it.
I hope everyone has had a great weekend and that everything back home is going well!
This is going to be a long post so brace yourselves!
This weekend was so eventful! On Thursday night we all went out together as a group for the first time and went to a club called "tiger tiger." It was fun but we were told that the places on Long Street were much better so that's where we plan to go from now on. Everyone just got funny vibes being there and the music was pretty lame. But, we had a good time all together! On Friday we went to the Green Market Square down town. I have started to learn how to bargain with the locals because you can really manage to lower prices at these markets. I got some really cool souvenirs for my family and of course I had to buy two scarves for myself to add to my collection. It was a bit of a laid back day because we didn't have class but I sure did enjoy the taxi rides across town. The taxis here are completely different than they are back in the US. They are large vans and they have a driver and a passenger. The passenger hangs his head out the window screaming at people on the streets where they are going. They pack the van as full as they possibly can and it typically costs about 5 Rand to get across town. 7 Rand is a dollar...so that's pretty inexpensive.
On Friday night everyone decided to head down to Long Street. I was really tired and ended up watching a movie in my bed instead because I know how many more opportunities there will be to go out. We have a gate outside our house as well as one in front of our door. You have to go through 3 different doors to get into our house and then we can also lock our room doors. As I was home alone on Friday night, someone kept buzzing the front gate over and over again. I finally got out of bed to go see who it was and I cracked the door open, said "hello?" and immediately didn't recognize the guy so I shut the door. I went back into my bed and he continued to ring the bell. I pressed the "emergency" button in our house which calls ADT. (being home contributed to my paranoia) ADT came five minutes later and they shined a bright flashlight into the front door window. I opened the door and tried to explain the situation to the guy. As it turns out, it was him, the ADT man, the whole time because the alarm had been triggered earlier. So, I shut the door on the ADT guy when I initially didn't recognize him, whooops! He said there was probably a glitch in the system because they got a funny response when they first showed up. I didn't get in trouble for pressing the button though, so the coast was clear on that.
On Saturday we had an excursion planned for us. We went to the District 6 Museum and site. District 6 was an area in the western cape that was composed of all different races and religions. During Apartheid, this area was seen as a threat to the SA government and everyone, except for the whites were forcibly removed from their homes. These families would have the last image of their home in District 6 as a smoke cloud and pile of rubble. The museum is used for people who experienced this trauma to go to and pray. They can receive counseling and spend time with fellow District 6 neighbors. Today, a lot of these people have been able to receive their land back that they once owned but if there have been buildings constructed where their homes used to be, they just receive a stipend of money.
We also ventured up to the top of Table Mountain. Table Mountain is currently on the ballot to become one of the 7 wonders of the world. How cool is that? This place was absolutely stunning. We rode in a cable car to the top and then walked around for an hour. Who knew it’d be 20 degrees cooler at the top? Not me! I took some gorgeous pictures and felt like I was on top of the world.
Sunday we decided to create an excursion of our own. We took a ride out to Stellenbosch and got the chance to pet cheetahs and see some other exotic animals that are native to South Africa. It was amazing seeing these cheetahs so calm…I guess that’s what happens when you’re born and raised in captivity by humans. They told us that if they released these animals out into the wild now, they wouldn’t survive because their mothers teach them how to hunt and kill during their first 18 months of life. Raised by humans, they would starve to death. That afternoon we went wine tasting. It was equivalent to three dollars to taste five different wines. It was fun!
Today was our first day visiting the township of Khaylitsha for the IT training. Just driving through the town, I was able to see exactly what I would be faced with for the next two weeks. After that we’re doing the Holiday Project with children. We were paired up with two people from the township and they had computers. It took three hours to simply teach them how to turn on a computer, make a folder on the desktop, open MS office, type their name, and cut/paste. I realized today that after my time with Corentia and Thozama, I will be a very patient person. Looks like we’re heading down town tonight.
I just finished my first five page paper for my course!