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.
Contact me for more stories! Hope you all enjoyed my frequent (hah) blog posts!
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!
We have settled in Cape Town quite nicely (I'm even starting to talk like them) and have gotten a pretty good feel for the city. Monday night after we arrived in our new homes, we decided to head out to see the night life. We all had dinner together at a Mexican restaurant in town and then some of us went down to Long Street which is where a lot of young people go at night. It was so fun. The DJ played all American music and did a special rendition of "Sweet Home Alabama" for me and did "Sweet home Washington DC" and threw in some "yes we can"'s in there. It was interesting but absolutely hilarious.Yesterday (Tuesday) we went on a bus tour of Cape Town. It was on an extra-touristy double-decker bus and we were able to get off at any stop that we wanted. We decided to get off at Camps Bay and spend some time on the beach. It was one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen with crystal clear blue water and perfectly placed rocks. The pictures I took don't do it justice. After the bus tour, we decided to head into the aquarium. It was mediocre compared to the one in Baltimore but we did get to see some enormous sharks and a penguin feeding.
We headed back to the house and I took an hour nap before we went out again. The organization that we're working with is called Shawco and they do all sorts of development outreach in the local "shanty towns." One of their major projects is located in Khayelitsha and is a free medical clinic that locals have access to when they aren't feeling well. One of the girls in my program is going to be interning at the clinic so we thought we'd take a look. It was an extremely eye-opening experience that I cannot even begin to explain on this blog but if you ask me about it, I will attempt to. On a lighter note, we got back from the clinic around 9pm and all were starving so we had pizza which was remarkably similar to domino's in the U.S.
I just finished my first class at the University of Cape Town. Our instructor was extremely interesting and I have to admit that he really encouraged me to think and dive deeper in what we were talking about. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a class so much in my life. Despite the 45+ pages we will have to write, I am really looking forward to the rest of the course. We discussed "development" in both South Africa and the Sudan and all different aspects of it. This is definitely a topic that I'm not likely to discuss in courses at VT. So for now, while I'm in South Africa, I'm going to soak up as much as I possibly can!
I arrived at the airport in Cape Town on Friday morning around 10am. To say I was exhausted would be a complete understatement. We waited around for 2 hours for Ryan to arrive and then we were on our way to Bonamanzi for the weekend. No one told us the plan for the next few days and on our itinerary it just said "team building and orientation." The views on the way to this place were absolutely incredible. This place was a giant lodge that sat right on a river called Breada (not sure if that's correct). There were cabin type rooms for the girls and boys, outdoor showers, and a large room with a fireplace upstairs. Leon was our chef for the weekend and he made some of the best food I have ever tasted. Jayne and Chris were our hosts and we did team building activities with them. A lot of the activities were similar to ones I completed at staff training at Camp Horizons but we also were asked an array of questions that I certainly wasn't prepared for. We were asked what our two strengths and two weaknesses were, what we wanted to accomplish as a tourist in SA, and what we wanted to accomplish personally in SA. It really got our group to open up and just after three days together, we're all already so close. We went kayaking and on long walks. I took some incredible pictures for all of you to see very soon.
Today we arrived in Cape Town after a two hour long bus ride in which we saw a baboon eating an apple on the side of the road. We unpacked our things in our houses and then headed to campus for a small tour. Tomorrow we're taking a bus tour of Cape Town and on Wednesday we start class and also go to the "shanty towns" where we'll be doing our service work.
This place is absolutely gorgeous and I am so excited to be here!
Here's Mom and I before I left for the airport. She always closes her eyes, silly momma.
I arrived in London this morning at approximately 6:52am (London time) and my departure to Cape Town isn't until 9pm. I was supposed to meet up with Alice who was my co-counselor when I worked at Camp Horizons in 2009. The London transit would have taken her 2 hours to get to Heathrow and she had to be somewhere at 6pm so it just didn't end up working. Also, I decided not to activate my Blackberry over here because Verizon has ridiculous international prices. So, I didn't have any way to get in contact with Alice.
I then proceeded to look for a hotel in the airport just to see how much it would cost to nap the day away in a room rather than on an airport bench where I'd have to strap myself to my luggage. I had to go through Immigration to get to the hotel through terminal 5. It was going to cost 175 pounds sterling which would be nearly 300 dollars. Obviously I rejected that offer. So I took the London transit back to terminal 1, going through security again, and slept on the airport bench for an hour. Once I finally figured out that I wouldn't be meeting up with Alice, I decided to venture out again in search of a different hotel. I finally found the Hilton and it was much cheaper so I decided to take it. I slept for 5 hours straight, took a shower, and headed back to the airport. Of course after waiting in line for security for 30 minutes, my boarding pass wouldn't scan because it had been scanned earlier that day and I had to get out of line, go get a new boarding pass, get back in line, and continue to wait all over again. Now I'm sitting in terminal one waiting for them to announce the gate for my departure to Cape Town. I decided to eat Cadbury's for dinner because they are by far the best chocolates on earth and after 14 hours of venturing around this place, I feel like I deserve it.
Hopefully when I get to my gate, I'll meet up with someone on my trip, that would be ideal. I'm not a huge fan of traveling alone and I'm eager to meet everyone! My flight is 13 hours so I should get in around 10am (Cape Town time) so that would be 5am at home. I'm just 5 hours ahead!
I just wanted to say thanks to my family, shoutouts to Steph, David, Mom, and Dad for keeping my head on straight. Special thanks goes to Steph for writing me the sweetest, most sisterly letter for me to read on the plane. Not to mention she brought me Starbucks and my nap bear before I left for Dulles.
Also want to say thanks to my lucky fam and the rest of my SK sisters, Becca, Lauren, Lauren, Talene, Courtney, Kate, Shelby, Brittany - you all are so wonderful. Thanks for wishing me safe travels and keeping me in your prayers.
And of course Matt for letting me know how hard traveling alone is but that everything works out.
They just announced my gate so I'm off!
In exactly 48 hours I will be sitting on a plane en route to London. I am struggling with the packing simply because I want to bring everything that I own. It's going to be a while before I finalize my decisions.
Just thought I'd post and give everyone my email: firstname.lastname@example.org so we can stay in contact while I'm gone!
Hope everyone is having a great summer and please keep me in your prayers while I'm abroad!
Students Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (SHAWCO)
I got my information packet today in the mail with every little detail about SHAWCO and how we will be interacting with them. This is their vision: Improving the quality of life of previously disadvantaged individuals in developing communities within the Cape Town metropolitan area.
Basically we will be working with 3rd-7th grade students in primarily English and Math but will also go on field trips with them. We work with them in various workshops that will teach them communication and leadership skills through art and drama, improving the quality of life, and basic health awareness skills. The students will also learn about the crime rate in their home towns. I'm excited to educate these students and hope to gain personal knowledge as well. 1,200 student volunteers work with SHAWCO every year and I'm so excited to contribute to that number.
I also found out that the weather is usually cold and wet, and windy. I thought I left Blacksburg for the summer? It's okay though because I'm going to be in Africa! I'm just so excited, I can hardly wait.
Something else I learned was that it's illegal to remove anything from its natural habitat. It's illegal to be within 300m of a whale or dolphin. Guess who can't fish without a permit? This girl. Also can't light a fire anywhere other than designated areas. There are ELEVEN official languages. Luckily for me, English is the first, followed by Afrikaans and Xhosa.
The currency is the Rand so something that would cost 7 dollars in the states would typically cost "1 rand" in SA. But bottled water is around the same price as it is in the States. But night club cover charges are between R40 and R50 so other things are expensive but if I went to the movies it'd only be able R40. Restaurants have a very wide range of prices and meals can cost anywhere from R35 (5 dollars) and R100. We'll see how all that pans out.
My older brother thinks I should bring a travel filter so I might just take him up on that.
Yesterday I had to do what every world traveler dreads doing. Vaccinations! Luckily, because I was a camp counselor, I already had to get a bunch of shots out of the way. So today I only had to get a typhoid immunization. Unfortunately my arm is really sore now. I had the option of taking 4 pills instead but because I'm lactose intolerant, they directed me towards the shot. I'm really not afraid of needles so it wasn't too much of a problem. She gave me a whole packet on precautions to take in South Africa so I definitely think I'm ready to go! I sure am EAGER to go!
Just thought I'd fill yall in on the latest with my program! I've met 4 other people via facebook and I think I'll be living with them but we haven't gotten our housing assignments yet.
Today they released the list of participants for the program that I'll be traveling and studying with. There are only 8 of us! 3 interns and 5 people participating in the Community Development program (including myself). Of course I felt the need to friend-request as many of these people as I could find on Facebook. I'm just so eager to get to know everyone and finally get there!
I made an appointment with an immunization center today and it's looking like I'll probably have about FIVE vaccinations to get before I go. yikes.
In the summer of 2009 I worked at Camp Horizons in Harrisonburg, VA. I was paired up with a counselor from England that pretty much became my other half. We made an awesome pair and always had the greatest times with our campers. I recently found out that during my 14 hour layover at Heathrow airport, I will have the opportunity to meet up with my co-counselor from 2 years ago! I could not be more excited. That evening I'll board my flight to SA and arrive early in the morning on June 10th.
June 10th marks the begining of my orientation in which I will travel all around Cape Town and other destinations nearby. I'll get to know everyone in my program and hopefully become familiar with the area too.
For those of you who don't know, I'll be traveling to Cape Town, South Africa on June 8th, 2011 and return on July 30th. I am currently a Human Development major at Virginia Tech and intend to receive credit for both my major and my minor (Leadership & Social Change) while abroad.
In exactly one month I will be sitting, enjoying my fourteen hour layover in London Heathrow airport. Unfortunately, this was the only way to get to Cape Town.
I'm excited for my trip and to keep everyone updated on my travels!