Sunday, February 24, 2013

hard work pays off

Hey, everyone! This entry’s going to be a short one, because I’ve been feeling a little sick for the past few days. It’s like getting a cold while you’re on vacation—the absolute worst! Anyway, enough of my pity party.

On Monday night, the Maties (Stellenbosch’s mascot, by the way) rugby team had a home game against Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. My Afrikaans teacher told us that we have traditionally beaten this university by at least 30 points every time that we play them, but this wasn’t the case at all! We only won 13-8, and the game was super close, right until the end. I don’t understand rugby much, but I did understand that we were almost in a lot of trouble.

Like I said, rugby here is a big deal. Here are some pictures that I took:

Classes during the week went on as usual. In my Jewelry Design class, I finally completed my earrings! They’re not the most beautiful things in the world, but hey—I made them by hand! They were really frustrating to work with at times, but nine hours later, I’m extremely proud of them! (This is where I would post a picture of them, but I forgot my camera in my room and we can’t take our work home yet! I’ll take a picture next time, but they’re nice, I swear!)

On Thursday, my roommates and I celebrated our one-month basically, we were celebrating being friends for exactly a month! It's so strange to think that we used to be complete strangers put in a flat together, but now we're great friends, get along really well, and do everything together. In honor of the special occasion, we went out to dinner at a nice Lebanese restaurant downtown and saw the movie Jack Reacher. Not the best movie I've ever seen, but it definitely wasn't the worst...?

On Friday, I had VCE again. All of the groups had set plans for the kids, and the theme for the week was “my body.” We printed out copies of an outline of a boy playing football and a girl dancing for our class to color in. We drew an outline of a body on the board and wrote the names of the different body parts on it. Then we had them color in the corresponding body parts as we explained them. Our teacher also had them say the words—arm, leg, stomach, head—in English and Xhosa, so we learned some new things too!

After the educational part was over, we went outside and sang “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” Then, we played Duck, Duck, Goose for a long time, which the kids loved. Lastly, we settled back inside of the classroom and counted how many heads, arms, and legs were in the class. I was so impressed with how high they could count in English (up to 54!). Not only are they about 5 years old, but English is also their 2nd language!

Overall, the day at Kayamandi went really well, and our class’ teacher was also really happy with how prepared our group was, which made us feel even better about the work we did. This week’s theme is “healthy living.”

Also, a side note: as much as I would love to post pictures of the kids that I work with, we aren’t allowed to for safety reasons. However, I have taken some and will definitely share with my family and friends in person!

So that was my week—not too exciting, but not boring either. I’m just enjoying every day in South Africa as it comes. It’s so weird that I’m in Africa. I always find myself thinking about it and freaking out. This week is another ordinary week of classes, but on Saturday I’m going to a Holi One Color Festival in Cape Town, and on Sunday my AIFS group is going to Cape Point and Boulder’s Penguins! AKA more stories and pictures! Yay!

‘Til next time,

Sunday, February 17, 2013

on top of the world!

Hi again! I’d like to start this post by saying a humungous THANK YOU to everyone who’s been reading my blog. It means so much to me that you guys are taking time out of your days to check on me and see what I’m doing in South Africa. I’d also like to especially thank the people who’ve commented below on some of my posts. I’ve known many of you since I was little and it’s so nice to hear from you all and have you read my blog. So thank you, thank you, thank you!!

This past Friday was my first week of VCE (Volunteer Community Engagement) at Ikaya Primary School in Kayamandi, a township about 10 minutes away from our campus. It’s crazy that a community with such a different lifestyle is so close to us—it truly shows how diverse the culture in South Africa is. We got randomly divided into eight groups with about five international students in each group. I’m with three German girls and one Norwegian guy, and they all seem really nice. It’s interesting to be the only American, and I’ve really liked getting to know a little bit about everyone else. Our group got put with a classroom of kids pretty quickly, and I was so nervous (even though these kids are only about 5 years old!). I assumed that we would just play games with them, but the teacher had her own lesson plan that we went along with.

The kids were super cute and warmed up to us right away. We read books to them and they even taught us some of their songs. They knew “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” so I could sing along to those ones. The kids also sung these songs in Xhosa, which is their primary language, although they do know some English. I was surprised to see how well they could count—all the way up to twenty with ease! For our next session with the kids, each group has to create a lesson plan revolved around the theme of “my body.” It should be fun!

Right after VCE, we left for our AIFS Cederberg Mountain excursion. The drive was about 4 hours long, and we had Hestea and three guys who work in the international office driving us. Half of the drive was on sand and gravel, and we traveled really far into the mountains. Most of the students stayed in a cabin-like house on the bottom of a hill, and six others—myself included—stayed in a little cabin on top of the hill, and it was gorgeous. I felt like I was in a lodge in the mountains. We had a little front lawn, a fireplace inside, everything. I wish we had stayed for more than two nights!

We had a traditional South African braai on Friday night, which consisted of boerewors—sausages that were served on rolls with Mama H’s secret sauce. Delicious, to say the least. After that, we celebrated my roommate Daniela’s 22nd birthday and had s’mores and hot chocolate. Later on, we stargazed for a bit and I’ve never seen stars so clear and bright. I even saw my first shooting star!

Early on Saturday morning, we started our hike up the Wolfberg Mountains. The hike up was pretty steep for the first hour or so, but that was not the most difficult part. There was a point where we had to crawl through cracks and hand our backpack up the rocks before we could fit our body through. The climbing got more and more intense and—right before we reached the top—we approached an area called the “birthing hole.” Essentially, you have to lie down on your back and shimmy backward under a rock until someone above you grabs your hands and pulls you up. All of the hard work paid off when we reached the top of the mountains—it was absolutely breathtaking. I also give major props to the drivers and other guys in our group for helping everyone up to the top!

The way down the mountain took a lot less time but it was hard on the knees and ankles…speaking of ankles, clumsy me twisted one. But no worries, I’m fine now! Immediately after the hike, we jumped into the river by our campsite, and later on went to a free wine tasting. I can’t think of a better reward. We had another braai that night, and we had chicken and lamb chops with more secret sauce. A lot of us helped cook as well! Even though we were sore and exhausted from the climb earlier in the day, it was so nice to bond with everyone in my program. Also, Hestea told us that we were the fastest AIFS Stellenbosch group to get everyone up and down the mountains. What an accomplishment!

On Sunday (today), we packed all of our things into the vans and drove down to the caves to look at the San Bushman drawings. It’s so interesting to see how vivid they are after a thousand years! We also explored a few other caves and drawings, and saw some famous South African signatures in the Stadsaal cave, where many “city hall”-type meetings took place. We departed for Stellenbosch in the early afternoon, and made it back in less than 4 hours! I don’t know what it is about our group, but we’re speedy.

Overall, my weekend was full of food, fun, and lots of exercise. I’ll definitely be sore tomorrow morning, but I’m telling myself that it’s allll worth it.

‘Til next time,

Sunday, February 10, 2013

sorry, sharks

Hello everyone! I'm back again with a post from South Africa...I can't believe it's already been three weeks—it’s felt like a year! I guess it has to do with getting familiar with Stellenbosch and the university and all of the sights and sounds that were once foreign to me. Still, I feel like a tourist, and these South African locals could weed out the Americans with their eyes closed.

I started a few classes this week: History of South Africa, HIV/AIDS: A South African Perspective, and Jewelry Design.

History has been a little dry, but I have never really been a history girl. I’ve only learned about the Dutch settling in SA and De Boers and all of that, but there is (obviously) so much more context involved in the course. I’m glad that I’m getting to learn it all, and the different cultures and events that South Africa consists of sound really interesting.

My HIV/AIDS course is one that I’m excited for! One of our class projects involves creating a relevant product that we make with the help of a local non-profit organization and we present to the class. During the first class, we discussed our worldviews on different topics like virginity and gender, which I never think about when thinking about HIV and AIDS. South Africa has a very different view on the concept, and the country’s way of dealing with such a widespread infection and disease is completely different than mine. Super excited to learn more!

Jewelry Design was actually harder than I thought it would be. We started right away making copper earrings with cut-outs inside and I struggled cutting the shapes out of them. Like, I struggled so badly and I became so impatient with it all. They were pretty crooked and the edges were jagged, but I’m hoping that they’ll look wearable when I smooth everything down in the next classes.

There’s a movie theater in our local mall, and a few of us decided to go and see Argo and Les Mis on two different occasions. It’s so nice to sit down and enjoy a movie since we don’t have a TV or any DVDs of our own. Also, they are so cheap—$5 compared to $10 at home!

A huge group of us were supposed to go shark cage diving today, but it rained this weekend, so the weather unfortunately didn’t allow for playing with the sharks and it got cancelled. Instead, my roommates and I went to the Canal Walk mall in Century City. It’s apparently one of the biggest malls in the Southern Hemisphere! I can personally say that it is gigantic. They even have a piercing and tattoo shop inside! (No, I didn’t get another tattoo, Mom…not yet at least.) I got a few really cute things from stores that I haven’t ever seen in the U.S. It was really fun to look at the different shops and restaurants there.

I am exhausted from the long day of walking around, but this coming week marks my first full week of classes! I’ll be sure to let you guys know how it is to be a full-time student again. The AIFS program also has an excursion over the weekend to the Cederberg Mountains, so expect some stories and pictures as well!

‘Til next time,

Sunday, February 3, 2013

wine, windows, and waka waka

This past week has been really eventful!! Here’s a breakdown of what happened:

On Tuesday the 29th, the AIFS group went to a beach in Gordon’s Bay (around 30 minutes away from campus) called Bikini Beach. We were pretty much the only people there, and the water was beautiful with all of the rocks surrounding it, but it was so hard to lay out and relax on the sand because of the strong winds. The wind would blow every couple of minutes and whip sand at our backs! We all had sand everywhere. It was a great area, but not the greatest experience.

On Wednesday, 10 of us went to Bikes ‘n Wines, which is pretty much a wine tour where you bike in between the different wineries. We were also touring with a family of three from New Paltz, NY! It was so strange but awesome to see people from home in South Africa. We all thought that the bike ride was going to be leisurely, but I found it pretty difficult. The first half to the first winery (Skilpadvlei) was uphill on pavement and I was struggling, you guys. A few of us were, actually. Fortunately, that was the worst of it. We tasted three wines at the first winery and had a really nice lunch.

My first picture with my flatmates!

The rest of the tour was either flat or downhill (we were riding on thick sand and gravel a lot though). The second winery was called Spiers and we sampled three more wines. (This one was so beautiful and also had a hotel, spa, and restaurant connected to it!). The third destination was a brandy distillery (Van Ryn’s) and we sampled two types—one of them being the finest brandy in the world! Fancy, I know. I also learned that brandy by itself is not one of my favorite things…tasty but strong.

Lastly, we visited Stellenbosch Hills, and quickly sampled three wines (one of them being a sparkling rosé), and Lindsay and I agreed to buy a couple of bottles of the sparkly stuff. Overall, the tour was fun and it was beautiful to see the countryside and different vineyards in Stellenbosch; plus, the bike ride was a full body workout. Luckily, Lindsay, Daniela, and I were able to go to the gym (we got memberships the week before), and took advantage of a yoga class and stretched out.

Thursday was probably my busiest day. My flat basically ran errands—got rugby season tickets, went food shopping, etc.—and then I went to a zumba class at the gym with Daniela. The class was so fun and the instructor seriously gave us a workout. There was also this huge event called Vensters in Afrikaans (“Windows” in English), which is basically where the freshmen at the university group up according to dorm, and they create different skits and choreographies that the people of Stellenbosch attend at nighttime. It was so cool to watch! The streets and bars were packed.

Saturday, I had training for VCE, which is a volunteer community engagement program that is open to all international students. There were over 100 of us, which was a great turnout! After a few ice breakers, we watched a film called Skin, which helped us understand the apartheid in South Africa and the especially the complexity of race here. Along with volunteering, we’re required to make plans for the day and write weekly reflective journal entries (something I’m totally used to as a counseling major). We also have the option of going into two different townships—Lynedoch on Tuesdays or Kayamandi on Fridays. Fridays work best with my schedule and I’m especially excited to work with children ages 4 to 6, because that’s something that I’ve never done before.


Today, the AIFS students went to a concert in Cape Town for a band called Freshlyground. Apparently they’ve performed the Waka Waka song with Shakira! It was an outdoor show and there were so many people there. And, since alcohol was permitted, there was a lot of hilarious drunken dancing, thanks to one woman next to us! Overall, the band was really fun to listen to.

This upcoming week will involve a lot of class-related things. For international students, professors have “first meetings” and give out the syllabus and explain the course to prospectives. Once we’re done with our first meetings for each class, we can create our final schedule and attend those classes regularly. Sometimes I forget that I’m here for school—it’s felt like a vacation so far!

‘Til next time,