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,

1 comment:

  1. Hey there honey - love these blogs - I'm living this experience as though I was there - keep blogging and keep that smile going - lots of us want to know how you are doing - love you dear!!! ~~ mom