Wow! It’s been over a year since I first jumped on a plane to Cape Town. So much has changed since then! I’m now graduated and getting ready to move to India to be a foster mom to a group of children with special needs. If you would like to follow my new blog it can be found at: http://www.shininginindia.wordpress.com. Thanks for following along with my South African adventures!
I’m back in the States! It was a whirlwind of emotions leaving Stellenbosch culminating with my crying in the customs line but I’m adjusting to life back in the States. I keep wanting to drive on the wrong side of the road but that can be changed now now. On our road trip to Namibia Leah, Juliana, and I had a lot of time to ponder our study abroad experience. We came up with a list, in no particular order, of the 25 things that we learned while studying abroad in South Africa. I owe a big thanks to South Africa for all the adventures, hospitality and lessons it taught me. Thanks for the best semester of my college career!
- Ostriches are the weirdest creatures. They are everywhere in South Africa and just run along the road. They are the funniest looking creatures I’ve ever met.
- In South Africa I learned so much about not only South Africa but also the United States and Europe. The people in my AIFS program were from all over the states and I didn’t realize how much diversity we had within my own country. In a similar fashion Stellenbosch has a strong international student body. I expected to learn about South Africa but I learned so much more about the global village we live in.
- Race is 100% socially constructed and this often ends in racial profiling.
- Africa is a continent, not a underdeveloped land mass. I feel that I was so uninformed about Africa before I came. We aren’t taught the history of the 54 countries that make up Africa, instead we end up with a one-sided view of Africa as poor and undeveloped when this is not always the case.
- I am financially stable but not rich in all areas of my life. While in South Africa I learned about poverties. The children I taught at Lynedoch might have material poverty but they are richer in many other areas of life, such as community. There are many different types of poverty and those of us in 1st world countries can still have poverty in our lives.
- South Africa truly taught me who I am. I know its clichéd but its absolutely true. Being abroad has taught me how I am and what I can do. Before this semester I never knew how calm headed and collected I was but being in South Africa helped me to know myself.
- I learned about the importance of building relationships during my time here. One of my biggest fears of going abroad was not being able to make friends but the relationships I made here are some of my absolute favorite. Study abroad is like friendship on crack because we have such little time together but we truly made the most out of it and were forced to have quality instead of quantity tie together.
- The rainbow nation has come a long way in the past 20 years and still has many years to go. But there is so much hope and potential brewing in South Africa, it is going to continue to grow into the beautiful nation it is.
- Not being connected to phones makes us more connected in real life. I had little wi-fi and spotty phone service and to be honest I didn’t miss it. Life happens while we are hiding behind our screens.
- Milk and eggs don’t always have to be refrigerated. I still think its questionable but I never got too sick!
- Nothing is as big of a problem as I think it is. Being in a developing nation put a lot of my life into perspective. It’s hard to get upset over something stupid when there are millions of human being living in townships in shacks with no running water and little ways to climb out of material poverty.
- 70 degrees is Ugg and coat weather. Most places in South Africa don’t have central heating and although we may not have believed that it would ever get cold in the beginning, my last couple of weeks were freezing.
- Culture shock is real. And reverse culture shock.
- Material wealth isn’t as important as being happy with who I am and what I’m doing.
- The importance of living in the now. Throughout my time in South Africa so many people taught and emphasized living in the now. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow isn’t here yet, all we have is this moment.
- Now now, just now, and now all mean different things but all have the same end meaning, it will get done at some point in the future. African time is a thing.
- Everyday is a learning experience. I feel like the even the days I didn’t really do anything I was still learning something. The nights we went out were just as meaningful as the nights we stayed in and had deep conversations and drank wine. Life is full of adventures and some adventures don’t even involve leaving our residence.
- Our generation is going to be a game changer. Being around my peers in LSCE and seeing everyone that was in South Africa I truly believe that our generation is unique, we don’t take anything for face value and are willing to make waves to make change. I believe that my peers in LSCE are going to make a difference in our world.
- Coffee is more than just coffee. I went to the same coffee shop multiple times a week. By the end they knew my story and my coffee order. Everyone you meet has a story and its up to you to get to know it.
- The unknown is scary but if I never try I will never know what it out there. At the beginning of the semester we were afraid to ride the train. We had a weekend trip to Muizenberg planned and we almost didn’t take the train. I’m so glad we faced our fear and got over the horror stories we had heard about the train. If we had only stuck to what we knew we would have never left Stellenbosch and had the adventures and freedom that we had.
- Self reflection is crucial to growing. Throughout my time I had to learn how to be reflective so I could learn from the mistakes I made and grow as a person.
- That I am lucky to be able to call the United States my home. Before I left I was not as grateful as I am now to be an American. Even if we sometimes have a bad reputation talking to other people from around the world I realized how lucky we are. We can travel without many restrictions and have freedoms that others dream of. At International food night we had so many people come up and ask to take a picture with us so that they could be American too.
- How to be flexible. In South Africa sometimes plans did not go as planned. But I learned how to roll with the flow. If something didn’t work out there was always another plan and sometimes the other plan worked out better than the first one.
- How interconnected all humans are. We may feel like we lead separate lives but my actions affect those around me and vice versa. We all feel the need to belong and it’s up to each individual to make sure that that we include those around them. Even the simple act of asking someone how their day was can make a difference.
- That I am incredibly lucky that I choose to study abroad in South Africa. Although I faced discouragement at time and got asked on multiple occasions why I didn’t choose a “safer” option like Europe I’m so glad I preserved and choose Stellenbosch. I could not have asked for a better semester or better friends to spend my time with. Totsiens South Africa! See you now now.
My time in South Africa is almost over and it feels like it just flew by! I leave on Friday for Texas and get back Saturday evening. These past couple of weeks has been full of adventure and great times! I was blessed enough to spend my 21st birthday with many of the amazing people I have gotten the chance to get to know over the past semester. My semester would not have been the same without their friendship and I am truly grateful that I got to celebrate with them! The day after my birthday, May 23rd, Leah, Juliana, and I packed all of our supplies into our rental car and started our road trip to Namibia!
The first day we drove up to a guest house near Springbok. It was on a sheep farm and was run by the sweetest couple that I refer to as my Afrikaans grandparents. The houses used only solar power and gas so we got to eat dinner in candlelight. I always wanted to be a pioneer and all my years of pretending I was living on the prairie came in handy. The next day we drove into Namibia and camped at the Canon Roadhouse. We got a bit lost on the way there but with some help from a nice Canadian couple we found our way! The next morning we woke up early and raced to see the sun rise over Fish River Canyon. Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world and compared to the Grand Canyon is much less developed. We walked around for a bit and then headed to Ai Ais, a resort in the middle of the desert. For $3 we got to spend the afternoon soaking in mineral spring pools. When we left South Africa it was starting to get cold but Namibia was much warmer! On the way back from the springs we saw a Cape Cobra. We got out to investigate and take pictures. Of course we didn’t realize just how dangerous it was until a local identified it for us but all is well that ends well I guess! We also saw about 25 zebras just chilling by a water hole. I defiantly saw the part of Africa most people pictured me in when I talked about going to South Africa!
After 2 nights of some of the most amazing stars I have ever seen we packed up camp and headed to Mariental for the night. We stayed in a really nice house and after resting up we headed out to the Namib Desert for two more nights of camping. We drove for miles down gravel roads and then suddenly there were hundreds of huge sand dunes dotting the landscape! On our first full day there we woke up before the sun rose and got into a 4×4 and drove out to Sossusvlei. We had a great guide who was quite the nature man. He found spiders, lizards, and several other animals to show us. We had the choice of which sand dune we wanted to climb up and we choose the “Big Daddy”, one of the highest sand dunes in the world. Halfway up, we were dying and asked our guide how often he climbed this dune. It turns out we were one of a handful of groups who wanted to climb the massive mountain of sand. It was tough but the view from the top was absolutely stunning. It took us an hour and 10 minutes to climb and approximately 6 minutes to run down the side. Running down the side of the massive sand dune was probably one of the defining moments of my trip to Southern Africa.
After some more exploring of the Namib Desert, a campfire, and star gazing we parted ways with Anna and Constanze, two ladies we had been traveling with, and headed back down to southern Namibia. We stayed in one of the weirdest looking cabins that night near a Quivertree forest. Our cabin looked like a spaceship but the rest camp was a cheetah sanctuary so we got to see cheetahs get feed. We left the land of the spaceships and headed back to South Africa. We spent the next two nights at the Khamkirri River Camp. This is the off season for South African tourism so we had the whole place to our self and two managers to cater to us. We went on a rafting trip in the morning and ended up going on a sundowner game drive. We meet the nicest people along this trip. One of my friends has a quote up in her room that says “I came for beautiful sights and found beautiful people.” That has been true of my entire time in South Africa. Most of the people I have met have been so genuine and caring. I am truly thankful for everyone who I have encountered during my time here.
We spent our last night where we started, at No Heep with my favorite Afrikaan grandparents. And then back to Stellenbosch. 11 days, 40+ hours of driving, and many stories of adventure. And as our Afrikaan grandma reminded me when we left, we must travel and have adventures while we are young and single. And adventures we did have.
With Love from South Africa, Colleen
I guess I’m finally due for an update about life here in South Africa. It has been getting busy with the end of semester and I’ve also gotten sick this past week so I have not had the chance to update. My time in Stellies is quickly coming to an end, in less than a month I will be back in Texas. It will be bittersweet but right now I’m trying to love in the moment and soak up the last of what this wonderful country has to offer me!
Two weekends ago Leah and I went on a mini adventure to Cape Town. We had originally planned to go to Hout Bay but due to some directional issues we ended up in Kalk Bay instead. Kalk Bay is the cutest little hippie seaside town ever! We ended up wondering around and doing some shopping and getting some great food. We then headed back into Cape Town for the night. One of the great things about the Western Cape is that we can take the train to places for around $1.50 each way. It makes it super easy to jump on and go to Cape Town for the weekend. They do not always run that reliably or on time and can have some shady characters upon occasion but I have still had some great times on them. On the way to and from Kalk Bay we sat with a student from University of Cape Town who was just the sweetest woman ever! Public transport is such a grab bag but sometimes it works in our favor! On Sunday we met up with our AIFS group to go to Robben Island but the sea was too rough for the ferry so we went to the aquarium instead. I haven’t been to the aquarium in forever and they had some pretty cool fish there!
Last Monday was my last day to teach an actual lesson at Lynedoch. I did a lesson on imagination and read “Where the Wild Things Are” and then had them make their own monsters. We reread the book with their monsters and had them recreate the story. They were pretty ferocious gnashing their teeth and roaring! From Monday on I was pretty sick and I’m just now getting over it!
On Saturday we went back to Robben Island and got to go this time. The ferry ride turned out to be a rather nauseous boat ride fighting the big waves but an hour after leaving the dock we made it to the island. Robben Island is where the political prisoners were kept during apartheid. Nelson Mandela and many other spent years in tiny jail cells for their fight to end apartheid. Cape Town is close enough to see but too far to escape to, symbolically and literally separating them and their access to freedom. The island itself was neat to see as I’ve read so much about it but there wasn’t a whole lot to see. We got a bus tour of the island and a tour of the prison by a former prisoner. And then another ride back to Cape Town battling the waves!
On Sunday we went to Cape Point, the southwesterly most tip of Africa. There were tons of baboons there! Lion King lied to us, they are not sweet and wise but instead quite vicious! Then we went to Simon’s Town to see the penguins. They live on the beach and were adorable. They just waddle around and go for swims in the ocean!
Monday was our last day to teach the children at Lynedoch. We did a review of all the materials that we taught them and then showed them a picture slide show. They really liked seeing themselves! Teaching at Lynedoch has been one of the hardest and most rewarding things I have ever done. At times it was hard as I felt that I wanted to save them and give them material goods. But I eventually realized that they don’t need saving. What they really needed most was for someone to believe in them and believe in their potential. I will never see the seeds that I planted grow into something grand but one of the great things about the LSCE program is that it continues on when I’m gone. There will be more students coming next semester and for semesters after that. The good that our work does will not end when we leave, instead each group gets to build a layer of the great people that our little first graders will one day become. I can’t wait to see what they all will achieve, each and everyone has so much potential. I will miss those little nuggets!
After next Tuesday I’m officially done with classes and then I’m off to Namibia for 10 days! The end is truly coming and I’m not sure I’m ready to leave!
With Love from South Africa, Colleen
This past weekend was all about stepping outside my comfort zone. Coming to South Africa was definitely outside my comfort zone and almost every day I experience things that put me outside where I feel comfortable. One of my main personal goals of study abroad was to learn about myself and have experiences that I could not have in the comfort of what I knew. Being in South Africa has put me outside my element and I like how it forces me to examine my thoughts and beliefs. Last Friday a group of us decided to go to a poetry slam competition in Kayamandi, one of the nearby townships. For those not familiar with the term township it was a part of the apartheid system that has not been resolved. During apartheid all the blacks were forced into their own town where they were kept contained. There was and still is a lot of poverty in the townships and appropriate housing and sanitation is still a huge issue. So the poetry slam was in a township and it was a great experience. I have never liked poetry ever. I hated reading it, writing it, and trying to find meaning in it. But I really enjoyed seeing poetry preformed. It was a very South African mix, the poetry was in iXhosa, Afrikaans, and English. The performers were from many different walks of life, had different colors of skin and were many different ages. I really liked to see them all come together united by an art. The audience was a mix as well. Many of us were from the University but there were people from many walks of life as well. I even ran into my favorite barista! A poetry slam would not be my first idea of a good Friday night but I’m glad I took the chance to try it out and went.
Saturday was the South African Cheese festival. When I decided to go I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was. It was huge! There were hundreds of booths with so many free cheese, food, and wine samples. We stayed for eight hours and now have another wine festival under our belts!
On Sunday we went to Mzoli’s. Mzoli’s is “partying the township way”. It is located in Gugulethu, a township near Cape Town. We went with a group of students from Stellenbosch. To get there we piled into mini-taxis which are essentially vans that pretend they don’t have to follow any rules. When we got there we went on a walking tour of the township, which was probably one of the most personally conflicting thing I have ever done. On one hand we were walking around with a local who knew the area and the history. It was interesting to talk with him and see what he thought and to see the community through his eyes. But at the same time it felt like we were taking a tour to gawk at poverty. People do not take tours of my neighborhood so why should I take a tour of someone else’s neighborhood? It was a weird experience but I’m glad I went so I could form my own decisions about townships. They are so conflicting for me. It hard to drive past miles of shacks and extreme poverty and twenty minutes later be in the wealthiest part of Cape Town. There are no easy answers as to what to do about townships. They are a systematic problem and need a complex solution. But the people that live there are very proud people. They take care of what they have and I envy the sense of community they have. At Mzoli’s everyone was just having a great time! The place was jam backed because it was African Independence Day and people were dancing and having a great time everywhere! It took forever to get our big platter of meat and there were no plates or forks or knives so we just got to dig in with our hands. Once I got used to the idea that I was going to be touched and have no personal space it was so much fun! Later on I was outside to get some air and I realized that me and my group of friends were the only white people outside. The feeling of being a minority does not happen often in my life and when it does it always reminds me of my privilege and how it must be to always be the minority. We talked about social constructivism the other day in LSCE and we talked about how race is socially constructed. It seems so silly that we take something as meaningless as skin color and make it a factor of division and discrimination. Being in South Africa has caused me to step back and look at things I had previously never thought about. It can be uncomfortable at times but also incredibly enlightening. Being in South Africa is pushing me outside my comfort zone every day and outside my zone is where I am truly beginning to learn.
With Love from South Africa, Colleen
This past weekend, Easter Weekend, I got to go on my first road trip! One of the things I miss about being in Stellenbosch is not having access to a car. It makes getting places much more interesting and it’s definitely healthier to walk everywhere but I still miss being able to jump in a car for longer walks. But this past weekend a group of us rented a car to drive to Hermanus, a nearby beach town that is famous for its whale sightings during the winter months. We were a bit too early to see any but the town itself is still gorgeous!
We left on Friday and had a jamming two hour ride there. After we checked into our hostel we went out and explored some of the town. We made dinner in our hostel that night and went to bed early so we could wake up early for shark cage diving! The next morning we were off again to Gansbaai, which is known for its population of Great White Sharks. We ate a hearty breakfast, watched a short video and then loaded up in the boat and took off across the sea. Once we got to an area known for sharks they put down an anchor and started chumming. It took about twenty minutes and then a shark came! We took turn in groups of 8 going into the cage. The cage was attached to the side of the boat and was essentially a wire box with a viewing window. The water was freezing so we had to wear the world’s most unattractive wetsuit! Megan, Emma, Brittany, Leah and I all got to go in at the same time. The used bait and a plastic board shaped like a seal to lure them close to the cage. When a shark was nearby they would yell for us to hold our breaths and go under to view it. I had my waterproof camera so I got some pretty neat pictures! After everyone went I got the chance to go again. This time I actually went in with a group of guys from Texas that was visiting South Africa with their UT at Dallas MBA program. One was even a former Red Raider! The second time around it was much colder and much scarier. The shark kept getting super close to the cage and at one point even bumped into it! I eventually got out early because I was too cold and scared!
We spent the rest of Saturday eating delicious food and hanging around the beautiful town. Sunday I went to Easter mass in a cute little A-Frame church and then we went to the beach. There were so many flies on the beach we had to cut our trip short but I am in such love with the beaches here! I never really went to the beaches in the States but now that I’ve been here I have really fallen in love with beaches. Not the sunburn that always happens after the beaches but the actual beach!
On Monday we headed back to return our rental car on time. One of the best things about South Africa is the public holidays. Literally there are public holidays all the time! I don’t have class until Thursday this week and we have more public holidays coming up! Hope everyone had a great Easter!
With Love from South Africa, Colleen
After my adventures on the Garden Route this past week has seemed boring in comparison! I got to teach at Lynedoch for what seemed like the first time on forever! We made a completely recyclable weather mobile with them. There were some changes and I made it up on the fly but it ended up being great! It’s really neat to see the relationships that I have been building with the learners. It is definitely easier to work with them now that I know some of their names and personalities and we are picking up on each other’s languages. On the subject of LSCE we also had our big special project yesterday! We all have to do a special project so we decided to combine and do a big carnival for the children. We had a brass band come in and do a presentation with the students for the first hour, had a talent show the second hour and did fair activities for the last hour. It was utter chaos as to be expected but all the children really seemed to enjoy it. My first graders sang gospel for the talent show and we did Easter crafts for our booth at the fair. Doing LSCE has been one of my best decisions in South Africa. My classmates are amazing and we have so many discussions that have opened my eyes and helped to broaden my knowledge and opinions. It also has cemented that I want to pursue a teaching degree when I graduate so if anyone knows of any alternative teaching programs send them my way!
On Thursday the international office at Stellenbosch hosted International food evening. Team America decided to make mac n cheese, apple pie, 6 layer dip and ranch dressing. Basically everything that is great about America. We didn’t end up placing in the top 5 but it was fun to try the other 25 countries foods and meet other Americans who are in Stellies. An interesting side note is that we are called Americans here. I was always taught to say I was from the United States not America as technically every person from North and South America is an American. But here we are known as Americans. The sign on our table even said America. I feel like I have learned more about the United States by having an outsiders perspective then when I was actually living there! South Africa has definitely challenged many of my notions about life in the States and it will be interesting when I go back to view my life with new lenses.
On Sunday I finally climbed up Table Mountain! I’ve taken so many pictures of it so I was excited to actually climb up it! The excitement dies down pretty fast when I realized how hard it was. It was one of the hardest hikes I have ever been on and it was 95 degrees that day! After two and a half grueling hours we finally made it up! The view was absolutely amazing but if I ever wanted to do it again I would take the cable car! We decided to splurge and go down on the cable car though; it was 110 rands well spent! This upcoming weekend a group of us are heading to Hermanus for Easter! Hope everyone back in the States is enjoying their spring!
With love from South Africa, Colleen
Part two of my fall recess was just as exciting as part one! We were picked up in a bg van on Wednesday morning by Hendrik and Chrissie of Earthstompers Adventures. They were the nicest couple ever. They met when Chrissie came on one of Hendrik’s tours and she moved from the States to South Africa to marry him and help him manage the tour company. They were both a lot of fun to chat with! We started out our Wednesday morning with a hike in the Tsitsikamma forest. We hiked to a suspension bridge and hung out there for a bit before returning for a picnic lunch. The scenery along the Garden Route is stunningly beautiful and dramatic. Huge mountains full of plants and trees rise right along the ocean with rock studded coasts. South Africa has many dramatic sights and the Garden Route is definitely one of my favorites so far!
After Tsitsikamma we got into the van where it promptly started to pour! We had some great rain timing throughout this trip! After a couple of hours we arrived at our cabins for the night. They were located along a river with kayaks and a paddle board. A couple of us decided to go swimming in the river. It was rather cold at first but eventually we got used to it! After we got out it started to pour and continued to pour for the rest of the night. After dinner we all headed to bed. I was asleep by 9, probably the earliest I’ve gone to bed since I came to South Africa!
When we woke up it was still raining but we continued onward to Addo Elephant Park. Addo was originally created to help preserve the eleven remaining elephants in the area and now has over 450 wild elephants and many other animals. The first hour of our safari was incredibly slow. We did not really see any animals. It was raining so many of the animals were trying to take cover from the rain and the park is huge so it can be hard to spot them. But then luck turned in our favor and we saw two lions chilling in the rain. They were brothers and they looked miserable but it was incredibly exciting to see them just chilling. After that we started to see more animals. We saw quite a few elephants including some babies with their moms. We saw several antelope type animals and even a dung beetle. The most exciting sighting though was another three lions, 2 males and a female. They were hanging out super close to the road and it was mating season so we even got to see lions mating first hand. Lion King wasn’t too far off with its circle of life song. After we had our fill of animals we headed off to Jeffrey’s Bay to our next hostel!
Jeffrey’s Bay is a famous surf town along the coast. They have the World Surfing Championships there and it is quite the popular surfing destination. My balance is off on land and being in the water wouldn’t make it any better so I decided to shop instead of trying my hand at surfing! We stayed at Island Vibes hostel which was also pretty cool. They have a hopping bar there that we spent the rest of the night at! Friday morning we woke up to try and watch the sunrise but yet once again it was raining. We all packed back into the van for a long drive to our final stop at Up the Creek camp on the Breede River. It was a pretty rustic camp with A-frame two bed cabins. I was in heaven being so close to the outdoors without actually having to sleep on the ground but that sentiment was not as widely shared! We had a great dinner and another roaring campfire. On Saturday morning we woke up and got an orientation before we started our rafting. We were in two person blow up rafts that were almost like kayaks. We kayaked for a bit down the river, including some smaller rapids. We beached, had lunch and then continued down the river to do some more rapids and paddling. It wasn’t exactly what I was picturing but I still really enjoyed it. We had yet another amazing dinner and fire and headed to bed for our last night before our return to Stellies.
On Sunday we packed up and started the scenic route back to Stellenbosch. We stopped by Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa and also the geographical location where the Atlantic and Indian Ocean meet each other. It was super windy and we snapped some pictures and got in the van to head to Hermanus. Hermanus is known for its whale watching during the winter months. We were lucky enough to spot a whale after we gabbed lunch hanging out in the harbor! It doesn’t look that big because you can only see one part of the whale at a time, like it’s blowhole or its tail, but they are massive! After lunch we headed back to Stellenbosch, home sweet home for right now. I only have 2 months left and I plan on taking advantage of everything possible in South Africa! I can’t wait to see where my next adventures will take me!
This past week I went on the long anticipated garden route trip! I remember first looking into AIFS to go to Stellenbosch and reading about the Garden Route and I’ve been excited ever since. Our fall recess started on Friday when our driver Logan picked us up from Lynedoch and we began the drive to Wilderness. It was about a 5 hour drive and I don’t think Logan was too impressed with the fact that we knew every word to the first Taylor Swift CD. We got to our hostel, The Beach House, where we stayed for Friday and Saturday night. It was a cute place located right on the beach! We had an early night and woke up ready for our first adventure, kloofing!
Kloofing is essential getting to point A to point B through a river. We first donned wet suits and life jackets and piled into the van to drive to the starting point. Once we got there we walked through the woods for about thirty minutes. We looked quite out of place in our wetsuits and life jackets tramping down a mountain. Once we reached the river we started our trek. We swam in the river, climbed over rocks and walked in the river or along the banks. At certain points we got to cliffs where we would jump off. All and all it took us around five hours to get to the ending point. Gracefulness is never my strong suit so I ended up slipping and falling approximately once every five minutes. By the end I gave up even trying to walk and my legs are still bruised up nine days later!
The rest of Saturday was spent resting, having a braai at the hostel, and going to a party on the side of a mountain to celebrate Anna’s birthday. On Sunday we hopped back into the vans and drove to an ostrich farm. Ostriches are such strange creatures and are not the smartest. But they are native to South Africa and are found quite a bit over here. I got to pet an ostrich and feed them. Ostrich riding was also an option but I decided to stick to watching it form my seat. It was similar to bull riding with everyone trying to stay on for as long as possible. Quite entertaining! After the ostriches we went to the Cango Caves. I was a little bit disappointed in them, after seeing Carlsbad Caverns most other caves pale in comparison. After the caves we headed to our new home for the next three nights. It was a beautiful farm with several cabins and houses spread around. They had a big pavilion for us to eat at along with a fire going every night. The places that we stayed during this trip were all incredible! There wasn’t one that I didn’t like.
Monday morning I woke up with butterflies in my stomach and couldn’t figure out why. Then I remembered with a jolt that today was bungee jump day! After barely touching my breakfast we loaded up in the vans and drove to Bloukrans Bridge. Bloukrans is the highest commercial bungee jump at 216 meters (798 feet). Of course, because nothing can ever be easy, the card machine wasn’t working when we arrived. We drove to three different ATMs before we finally found one that worked and then sped back. We paid, got weighed, put on our harnesses and then were shepherded out to the catwalk. The catwalk might have been one of the more terrifying part of the whole experience, it was a long way down. When we made it to the bungee platform I was informed that I would be the first to jump. After some choice words they started to get me ready for the jump. Then before I could even think about it the helped me to the edge, warned me not to look down and shouted “3 2 1 Bungee!” Despite being scared out of my wits I took a jump and the next thing I saw was the world flying around me. It went from being loud with music in the background and all my friends cheering me on to pure silence. It was one of the most amazing feelings I have ever experienced. Before I knew it I was back on the platform being greeted by the cheers of all my friends. I’m glad I got to go first because then I could enjoy everyone elses jump. The atmosphere on the bungee platform is so cool. Everyone is dancing and cheering each other on. Although I don’t think I will do it again it was an amazing experience. Fear is temporary, regret is permanent!
After bungee jumping so of the group heading to go tree canopying but I opted to instead go get lunch and go shopping down on a pier. After dinner we sat around the fire and gave everyone their spirit animals. It was hilarious to hear everyone’s reasons as to who should be what animal. I got Mother Goose for my maternal but kooky instincts. I really enjoy sitting around fires. They always lead to such introspective conversations about what drives us and our experiences so far in South Africa. We experience so much here and it is nice to be able to discuss some of it with each other and dissect parts of our lives.
Tuesday was our animal day! We started the day off in Monkeyland, a monkey sanctuary. We walked through the huge tract of land that houses mainly rescued and bred in captivity monkeys who are free to roam around in the trees. I had forgotten how cute monkeys are! After Monkeyland we headed to Tenikwa to see the big cats. We saw a leopard, cheetah and several other smaller cats. We got to be inside the enclosures with them. They are used to humans but it didn’t make it any less terrifying! After seeing all the cats we went for a delicious lunch at a winery! Because it was April Fool’s Day I hid in the back of the van after the winery to pretend they left me behind again. Janien freaked out when she thought I had been left behind again. April Fools isn’t celebrated in South Africa but we decided to carry on our ridiculous American tradition! After our trick we headed to the Knysna Elephant Park. We got to feed the elephants and pet them. Elephants are such majestic creatures and I don’t think I realized how much I lived them until this trip. It was so neat to get to see them, although the time was way too short!
Wednesday morning our group split into those going back to Stellies and those continuing onto Addo Elephant Park. For the sake of everyone reading this the rest of my trip will be continued in another post! Stay tuned for the second part of my adventure!
With Love From South Africa, Colleen
This week marks the start of many adventures in South Africa! I’ve been here for two months now and everyday I fall more in love with this country. I started out my week with my first graders. We did a lesson on exercise and spent most of the day chasing around the learners. On Thursday a group of us went back to Kirstenbosch botanical gardens for a concert. We saw KT Tunstall and Frankenreiter. They were both pretty chill and although I had no idea who they were I really enjoyed their music. I have decided that my favorite way to listen to music is underneath the stars with mountains in the background. I think I might be getting a bit spoiled here.
On Friday we did not have class so we went down to Cape Town for the Holi festival. It was basically a big dance party with lots of packets of color. It went on for ten hours but most of us only managed to stay for a couple of hours, it was exhausting! After we had enough party and we covered in multiple colors we headed back to our hostel. We stayed at a hostel called Once. It was really nice and comfortable. Somehow I got it into my head that all hostels were dirty and sketchy but my time here has proven me wrong countless times! After a well deserved shower we headed out to Long Street, which is their main drag of bars, restaurants and shops, similar to 6th Street in Austin. We ate and bar hopped for a bit but I was so tired I did not last long!
On Saturday we got up and explored Long Street and Cape Town some more. For lunch we got Mexicanish food. I’m yet to get real Mexican food here, they always have something similar but it never tastes right. Then we went the District Six museum. District Six was a community in Cape Town where everyone lived together, no matter the color of their skin. It was a very vibrant community and it came under scrunity from the apartheid government. They declared it a white only area and tore down their homes and relocated the people, destroying the community. Before I came to South Africa I remember reading about District Six and seeing the museum in real life was amazing. After the museum we caught yet another cab (we took a lot this weekend!) to the train station. Leah, Juliana and I caught the train to Simon’s Town for the night. The train in really cool because for the last thirty minutes it goes right along the water so you can stick your head out and see the ocean. Once we got there and checked into our hostel we went down to the beach for a bit and then went out for some fish and chips. It was delicious and the restaurant had a great view.
On Sunday we woke up to go sea kayaking but it was pouring rain. So we improvised and went back into Cape Town and walked along the waterfront until we found a boat that was going out. We ended up on a sailboat that was doing harbor tours. The water was a bit choppy but we got to ride on the front and had a great time! We saw a penguin, a whale, and a seal. We were super psyched about the whale because it isn’t their season so they are harder to see this time of year. After our adventurous weekend we headed back to Stellenbosch. Right now I’m just laying low and getting ready to start our holiday and the Garden Route on Friday! I’m super excited to go kloofing, bungee jumping and see elephants! So excited to see the rest of the adventures South Africa has in store!
With love from South Africa, Colleen