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!