Monday, July 27, 2009

ropes courses, spoken word, and clicking!

So, I got high in South Africa this weekend.  Don’t worry, there was no illegal activity involved.  We had an expectations retreat this last weekend in High Africa, a retreat center fittingly named for their intense high ropes course and rock-climbing wall.  We got to go about 40 feet above the ground and walk across beams and hang on nets.  It was very exciting and made me realize I LOVE things like this because not only do they challenge us individually, but they really bonded us as a group.

It was a weekend of a lot of play, but also a lot of productive talking about our program, why we are here, and what we want to accomplish during our time here.  We were really reminded about how original and unique this type of program is.  We truly are learning while serving.  We take 3 classes and have a capstone project that the end.  Our classes include and language course (I am taking Xhosa, which is the click language!), a research methods course, and an understanding Cape Town course.  For the last one we are having excursions with our lectures, so we are going to see and experience what we learn about.  I honestly think this is such a well organized program because we get all aspects of learning.  We also are meant to design a research project for the end of the term, but that will become clearer later what we are to be studying. 

The weekend also included some amazing star-gazing! It was truly spectacular the amount of stars you can see when you get away from a city. And we saw at least 15 shooting stars! I guess the only downside was that it was freezing there!! Winter in Africa is way more extreme than I imagined!

Oh! I almost forgot to mention the AMAZING spoken word performance I went to last night when we got back.  It was called Urban Voices and was a line up of famous poets from South Africa, the US, Ghana, and Jamaica.  I had never heard of the main performer Stacy Ann Chin , but if you haven’t heard of her LOOK HER UP!!! She was honestly the most inspiring, incredible, honest, and beautiful person I have ever seen perform their poetry.  There was also another man, Mark (I can’t remember his last name), who not only recited incredible poetry, but danced, sang, rapped, and acted it out as well.  I have never seen a performance quite like this, and I was so inspired I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or sing.  Honestly, I recommend seeing a spoken word performance if you haven’t before. 

Today we had our first lecture, which was our language course.  Needless to say, I think the clicking is going to be quite a challenge, but I am excited that I will be able to kind of communicated with the people where I am doing service.  The rest of the week will be full of classes and beginning our service.  I will write more on that later!

Ok well I best be going, we are at the local café Cocoa Wahwah, which has amazing food and amazingly slow internet.  But I will write more soon about adventures from Cape Town!


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

and the fun continues...

So last night I think I saw a man having a spiritual transcendence from playing the drum.  As part of our orientation, UCT brought in a group called Drum Café, which is a group of 7 guys who travel around South Africa playing the drums and teaching people how to play them.  I don’t even think you could call is “playing” it was so amazing.  And they had drums for all the students to play so we were in the huge hall with about 500 other students beating on these drums.  It was incredible!

            Later we went to CyBar, the local student bar, which is about a 10-minute walk from our house.  Definitely thrived…there was a long period of time that I was dancing on a bench in the middle of the bar with my friend Eva.  It was a great time though and fun because we were with a lot of the other study abroad students and some locals.  However, as fun as it is to party with the other people from the States, I really like going out with the locals.  It is just a different experience and I didn’t come to South Africa to party with Americans.  Although, all has been great so far.

            Today, after our very intense HIV/AIDS talk at 9 o’clock in the morning, we took a more in depth tour of the townships.  Ronal’s friend Thabo who runs tours around Cape Town frequently guided us.  It was such a wonderful day. 

            We started off going to the District 6 Museum, which is one of the only buildings left standing from the district that the white people destroyed in 1966.  It was the mixed race district that had about 70,000 people living there.  The whites decided that it was unclean, although it was actually much cleaner than the places they are made to live in now, and so they bulldozed the entire area.  It is actually very sad, but the government is now working to rebuild it, but truthfully it will probably not be finished for many years.

            Then we went to Langa, one of the many townships surrounding the city.  We saw beautiful pottery making that is bringing in good revenue for the people.  We went to the HIV/AIDS support system they have there, which is mostly run by kids our age.  It was so inspiring to see these young people totally taking charge to improves the lives of the younger generation in the township.  I felt so amazed that they were doing it all themselves, but also kind of sad that it seems that in America we do not take charge like that. People have to hold our hand to guide us into serving our community and these kids were choosing to do this at their own will.  It was truly something to learn from.

            Then we walked down the street and saw the lovely sheep’s heads that they sell for about $5 and people cook with.  Not going to lie, it made me a little queasy the way they handle meat here.  We went to a little shack and tried some of the locally brewed beer that is a very social tradition in the township.  Then we went to a traditional healer’s “office” that was filled with handing dried out animal carcasses and bones.  A little creepy but really cool to see.  We then ended the day having a local meal of meat and pop (like grits), which was really good and the best part was we ate it with our hands! I think we should always eat with our hands because it really does make food more entertaining. 

            All in all, more amazing times in Cape Town and I can’t wait for more to come!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

So I think I may have seen the most beautiful place on earth today...

Today was the first day of our University of Cape Town orientation with the rest of the students studying abroad, so I met a girl from Canada and a guy from Germany.  The day consisted of a bus tour around the cape that took almost 10 hours. We started off driving through the city where they pointed out sights to us like the Slave Museum, the neighborhood of colorful houses called Birkhop, and many other buildings. 

We then head to the coast to stop at one of the top 5 beaches in the world! It was beautiful, with white sandy beaches and the sun barely coming up behind Table Mountain in the background.  We looked out and say a whale fairly close to us, but I guess that is common around these parts of town.  I also heard that you can see great white sharks when you go to the areas where the seals are, but I will see those when I go …(mom stop reading)…shark diving!  We then went to a penguin reserve where all these South African penguins were just walking around right off the boardwalk where we were! It was crazy how close to us they were, and I felt very random to be seeing penguins out on the sunny sandy beaches. 

Next we drove through some wine country back roads to a place called Ocean View (ironic because they have no view of the ocean), but this is where we ate lunch and saw some local performances.  It was incredible! They fed us all this great food and then sang and danced for us.  I saw 5 year olds doing moves I could never dream of doing.  They were break dancing like the jabbawalking group from America’s Best Dance Crew.  I kind of felt like I was at a teen version of “So You Think You Can Dance”.  It was really inspirational and great to see a culture that was trying to change the all too common lifestyle of drug abuse and poverty and turn it into something constructive for their younger generation.  

           Then we were off to the Cape of Good Hope, aka the southern most tip of Africa.  We hiked up to the top of this hill and then down to the very end, all the while overlooking amazing ocean crashing into big cliffs and white sandy beaches.  I really wish words could describe how beautiful this place was, but they just really cannot.  It honestly took my breath away, and I tried to capture it in pictures but I don’t even think those did it justice.  I wish that I could just go there everyday for the rest of my life.  It honestly made me just appreciate so much this experience that I am able to have and so thankful for my life.  Just a great day all in all! Tonight we may be “thriving” but it is still up in the air.  “Thriving” is the term Patrick, our SOLmate, gives for just having a great time and being in the moment.  Usually there is something having to do with alcohol but not always! Ha Ok well updates soon to come!! Love you!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

and so it begins...

Ok so I love Cape Town.  After about 40 hours of traveling, multiple layovers, getting lost a few times in Heathrow airport, and telling the man at customs my phone number instead of my flight number, I made it to our very nice hotel in downtown Cape Town.  I stayed there one night on my own, but there was one girl, Bridget, who was there as well and we went out for a lovely meal in the POURING rain and then went to bed at about 8 o'clock.  The next day everyone got to the hotel and the adventures began! 

There are 9 people in my program including myself, 8 girls and one lucky boy named Patrick.  Out "Sol mate" (student orientation leader) and guy that lives with us is also named Patrick and is from Zimbabwe, 23 years old and very nice.  There is also a girl Ranel who runs both the service learning and the arts and sciences program so she has been around a lot as well.  I feel like we have already established a little family in a sense.  It is just such a quality group of people with different backgrounds and perspectives and a great spirit to do great things for the world.  For people that know, it is kind of like a smaller version of SCCAP (the service group that I am a part of at Santa Clara).  Just a lot of really inspiring people that I cannot wait to get to know better and learn from. 

Basically, we have been just getting an overview of everything for the past three days.  We talked about classes, cell phones, food, and the service projects that we will be doing.  We do not know what exactly we will be doing yet, but it should be decided in the next few weeks! We drove around through the townships, the poverty stricken areas in Cape Town surrounding the city, which was eye opening of course and really unreal how these people live.  I will tell more about that later. We also moved into our lovely house yesterday! It is a big Victorian type house with huge bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, and a kitchen.  Basically it is amazing except for the fact that is it really cold! But really, I shouldn’t complain though.

As for the nightlife, we have been going out every night because it’s the first weeks so you have to! We went to a hilarious comedy act on Monday night on Longstreet, which is the common area for people to go out at night. Last night we went to this bar there that has “rand a brand” on Wednesday nights, which is basically one rand (about 13 US cents) for one shot.  So as you can imagine it is very crazy and got a little out of control.  But all safe and great fun of course!

I won’t ramble on forever about everything, but I will update soon on what we are doing! Miss you all and wish you could be here because you all deserve to see this beautiful country! Xoxox

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Hey everyone!

Welcome to my blog!  This is where you will get all the stories, juicy secrets, adventures, and tales of my South African adventure that begins in just a few days (I leave July 10th!).  I hope you like the name, TSA for short, which I thought was fitting since they are just the people I am worried about getting past with my somewhat insane amount of luggage.  But it really is amazing what one can fit into a suitcase thanks to a little help (cough...Noelle).  I arrive in Cape Town on Sunday July 12th and check into a hotel for a few days for orientation.  I'm not sure what my internet access will be at that point but I promise I will post as soon as I can! Love you all and I hope you are all enjoying your summer. Miss you and keep my updated on life while I am abroad!

Peace and love,