Tuesday, September 22, 2009


This last weekend we had our homestays in the township of Langa, which is about 20 minutes from our house.  My friend Eva and I staying with a Mama who was about 60 years old and her 6 year old grandson.  I really didn’t know what to expect before going into the weekend because we have seen so many different examples of townships.  We have seen nice houses that look like they could be in a more suburban part of the US and we have seen people living in one room shacks made out of scraps of metal and wood.  The houses that we all stayed in were definitely on the nicer side as far as township housing goes.  Ours had two bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen.  To be honest, the houses and their furnishings were almost nicer than I expected, but they still lacked certain things that we take for granted such as hot water and a shower. 

The houses are all extremely close together and you usually end up walking through someone’s yard, or house even, to get to another house.  But this doesn’t cause any problems, it just makes everyone closer.  The sense of community that they have in Langa is something I have never experienced first hand.  They are all black South Africans, Xhosa speakers, and have lived in Langa for a long time because it is the oldest township.  This makes them all extremely close, reliant on each other, and trusting of the whole community. Just to give you an example, the 6-year-old boy would be gone for 5 hours and no one would be very worried. They just know that people will watch out for him and no one is going to purposefully harm their “sisi of bhuti” or sister and brother.  Although there is still a safely issue of foreigners, we never once felt threatened or uncomfortable. 

We were able to eat their tradition food, which includes a variety of variations of meal (corn-like grain), sour milk, spinach, chicken, tripe (cow’s stomach), pasta salad, steamed bread, and more.  Since I am a recent vegetarian, it was very interesting to eat meat again in this setting.  I must say that I am so happy that we got to eat their traditional food and I enjoyed some of it, but I did eat a lot of Tums over the course of the weekend. 

During the weekend we were able to walk around Langa and see many different areas.  We saw the new houses that the government is building for the people.   We saw a room no bigger than my dorm room where 3 families lived with a total of 16 people.  We saw the meat market where they sell every part of an animal imaginable on wooden tables in the open air.  We went to a saloon at night where we were practically treated like celebrities, which was a little awkward at first but we ended up meeting some very interesting people.  We went to a Baptist church on Sunday with our Mama and were there for 3 hours until we left early. 

This whole experience made me realize so many things about myself and my life, along with so much about their culture.  I realized how much excess I live in, and I would really like to be conscious about realizing the difference between a need and a want.  I also realized how important a sense of community is and how we really lack that in some many parts of the States.  And I realized how self centered and focused we are on constantly being better in our culture.  We are not meant to be satisfied until we have done everything we possibly can to be successful, but this past weekend I met many very content and happy people because they had loving family and friends and a safe place to live.  Many of them did not have jobs and their husbands had died of left them, but they were happy with their life and didn’t spend their time worrying about how to get more.  I feel so lucky to have gotten the opportunity to create relationships with people of a totally opposite culture, and to learn from them about how I want to live my life.  Until next time, salani kakuhle! (stay well)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Spring Break '09!

Spring Break in September has been of the craziest and best experiences of my life.  All 9 of my housemates plus Chris and Grady (our two fantastic guests) went on a 6-day adventure of a lifetime.  I will try to describe this to you but I am not sure I can do it justice…

The first day we left Cape Town early in the morning to drive to the Cango Caves where we got to climb around 250,000 year old caves underground.  Then we went to the Ostrich Farm where I discovered my phobia of large birds so I opted out when I had the option to ride them.  But watching the others get thrown around on these huge ugly creatures was quite entertaining.  Then we went to The Wild Spirit Lodge, our amazing backpacker for 4 nights.  This place was beautiful and perfect for our group.  We all shared one big room and they made us breakfast and dinner everyday, and they even took us on a sunset drive to a huge gorge where we got to have sundowners and see the amazing view. 

Sunday we went zip lining through the forest in the morning and then an elephant sanctuary in the afternoon.  I fell in love with elephants and was so happy to get to hug and feed them! They are such amazing creatures.  That night we got to sit around a campfire for a drum circle that kind of seems like a dream now that I think about it, but it definitely happened and I got really into the drumming!

Monday morning I jumped off the highest bungee jumping bridge in the world and I loved it!!! Imagine standing on the edge of a 650-foot bridge with only a rope attached to your ankles and people behind you yelling 3-2-1-bungee!! And then you swan dive into the air for a 4 second free fall that is the biggest rush of adrenaline I have ever imagined.  The best part for me was that no one besides Grady and myself was planning on jumping, but once everyone got to the bridge we all ended up jumping! We were so high on life that I am sure the people working at the jump thought we were crazy, but it was so incredible and I would do it every day if I could.

The next day we took a break from the crazy adventures to go the beach and I touched the Indian Ocean for the first time.  We hiked to a lookout point that overlooked the entire coast and the crashing ocean waves and it was so spectacular.  The next day we got an equally beautiful view of the ocean, but this time is was two oceans at once! We went to Cape L’Agalus where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet.  We sat there to watch the sunset and I was truly reminding of how lucky I am to be living the life that I am.

We ended the last day with a bang when we went shark cage diving.  Just try and picture yourself in a cage hanging off the side of a boat with yourself and 5 other people.  You’re above the water when the men on the boat yell, “Down Down!” and you dive into the water to encounter a 10 foot long Great White Shark 2 feet from your face.  At one point I was in the water and a shark swam up and bite the cage bars right in front of my face! Yes, I was about a foot away from a shark’s mouth and it was great.  Strangely, I am more afraid of ostriches than I am of sharks and I don’t really know what that says about me but I am ok with it. 

To sum it all up (if that is possible), our Spring Break was 6 amazing days that I couldn’t have been better.  I am so grateful that we all got to experience it together and that Chris was able to come along for the ride.  It is almost time to get back to the real world, but I still have a few more days of break so we are going to live it up as much as possible!