Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hello Everyone!

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!

Happy Birthday to my big brother David!

Monday, June 20, 2011

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 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!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Here's the link to my pictures, sorry they don't upload to facebook!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June 15th

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!

More to come later!

Monday, June 13, 2011


Hello friends!!
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!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Adventure 1: London Heathrow Airport

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!

Monday, June 6, 2011

2 days!

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: 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!