Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I fell in love this weekend...

This last weekend I went camping with 70 kids ranging from the ages of 5 to 18.  Crazy right?  When I went into the weekend I had no idea what to expect because Brigid, Annie (the other Ubuntu intern), and I thought that we were just going camping with the kids from Ubuntu for the weekend.  So of course we were shocked when we showed up to the backpackers an hour outside of Cape Town and were greeted by 70 children running around!  It turns out that this camp was run by an organization called Reach for a Dream, the South African version of Make a Wish Foundation, and they run this camp for disadvantaged children from all over Cape Town.  There were orphans, cancer survivors, disabled children, and HIV positive kids at the camp; so needless to say, it was an extremely fun and thought provoking weekend. 

The camp was run really well with lots of activities planned for the kids, tons of prizes that they gave away, and great meals provided for all.  Brigid, Annie, and I spent most of our time watching all of the kids when the other counselors would peace out, and so by the end of the weekend we were quite exhausted.  But really, it was such a fulfilling weekend because not only did we get to connect a lot more with our kids from Ubuntu, but also we really connected with a lot of kids from the camp and spent most of the weekend with a small child holding our hand or sitting in our lap. 

What really astounded me about the weekend was how positive all of these children are all of the time.  The first morning we were woken up at 6 am and I unknowingly rolled over and complained about the early wake up.  I came to find out later that this is when the children take their ARV’s (anti-retroviral), and I heard no ounce of complaint about this inconvenience.  They have all gone through so much in their lives and probably understand more about suffering than I do as someone twice their age.  But still, they constantly have a smile on their face and are laughing about something like any “normal” kid.  It really made me appreciate the lessons that they are teaching me and I am so grateful to be learning so much from such youngsters.  I also became significantly more attached to the kids at Ubuntu.  I know that after this weekend it is going to be so much harder to say goodbye, but I also know that I have made a connection with the kids that I could never replace. 

And now onto another fun filled week… Sam’s mom is coming into town on Wednesday and my dad and Peggy are coming on Sunday! More updates to come soon! Love you all!

Friday, October 9, 2009

still loving it...

As always, it seems that millions of things have happened since last time I blogged, so I will to try to sum up the best of the best…

The Friday after our homestay we had a braai at our house because Sam’s brother and his friends were visiting and we wanted to see our friends from the homestay again.  The guest list was over 50 people, so needless to say, preparation was crazy.  Myself, two other vegetarians, and one meat eater went a local meat shop where they sell tons of meat in bulk for very cheap.  I was once again reminded why I made the right decision personally to be vegetarian.  But the braai was a great success, everyone came and danced and ate and socialized and it was a great night of being surrounded by old and new friends from so many different parts of the world. 

That next week we attended a walk for school libraries that was organized by Equal Education, an advocating NGO that my housemate Pat works for.  They did a study that showed that hardly any schools in the townships have a library, so they are advocating for, “one school, one library, one librarian,” for the underpriveledged schools.  We walked with about 2000 students and citizens for about 3 miles to City Hall where they had a rally.  It was so inspiring to see so many students standing up for their rights and knowing that they must voice their concerns to make a difference.  It really gave me hope for South Africa’s future.  And it was really exciting because the walk made The New York Times! You can check out the article at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/25/world/africa/25safrica.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=south%20africa%20libraries&st=cse.  It really was great to see how what we are doing here can be seen on such a global scale. 

This last weekend we attended a research conference in Stellenbosch.  We presented the preliminary stages of our research which was great for the public speaking practice, but we did seem a little out of place surrounded a bunch of very experienced researches.  I am doing my research on the differing affects of a service-learning abroad program vs. an arts and science program on the students’ understanding of South African culture.  I have not completed my report yet, but my initial results are pretty interesting so it was nice to get feedback while presenting them.  We stayed at a great backpackers and we were able to explore the city and University of Stellenbosch’s campus.  That night we went to a Afrikaaner rapper concert which was so interesting because it was the first time we had been surrounded by that many white South Africans. It really is so interesting how we are constantly reminded of the cultural differences that exist here, and it is so strange to find our place within them.

Finally, I got a treat this week of being able to see my roommate from school Taylor and my friends Nick and George from Santa Clara! They are on Semester at Sea and stopped in Cape Town for 6 days.  It was fun for both of us to get a little taste of each other’s worlds for these few months.  I really enjoyed taking Taylor to Mzoli’s and my service in Khayelitsha, and I think she really enjoyed not feeling like a tourist for a bit. On their last day here we hiked Table Mountain (after a long night at Rand a Brand I might add) and it was so great to get to the top and see the incredible view. I also got to see the inside of their ship, which seems like a Marriott on the sea! But it was very cool to be able to share our experiences and see each other in Cape Town, South Africa of all places!

I am going camping this weekend with Ubuntu so I am sure I will have lots to tell when I get back! Hope all is well at home-I love and miss you all!

Talk to you just now!