This past week has really pretty busy—first day of classes and my first excursion this past weekend!
This past Monday (February 3rd) and this past Friday I had my LSCE “theory” class. Yesterday I had my first LCSE class where I worked with the students. During my “theory” class on Monday and Friday we talked a lot about what we will be doing in the program and what community engagement actually means. Grant, my teacher, is an extremely intelligent and wise person so every lesson he teaches is extremely inspirational. Grant made sure we understand that we are not working for the students, but instead working with the students. No one is seen as a victim to their situations in Lyndoch, and it is important that the students work to receive what they need. For example, if a child needs a pair of shoes, Grant might make the child clean a classroom before providing him/her with shoes. On Friday we talked a lot about the differences between community engagement versus service learning. We are not volunteering as service-learning suggests, what we are doing is engaging with the students and the community in order to benefit one another. The whole process involves reciprocity of effort and commitment.
The learning process at Lyndoch is based a lot on creativity—even my theory class consists of a lot of singing, moving, and drawing. There are 24 students in LSCE, and everyone seems very dedicated to the program. Besides our lessons on community engagement, we spent a lot of time talking about our own philosophies on life and who we believe we are as a person. It was fascinating hearing everyone’s view on life especially since the LSCE students are from all around the world. I am paired with the 5th grade class with 3 other girls. We have a larger class with 34 students and just so happen the class with the highest amount of students with learning disabilities. Lyndoch has the second most known cases of Alcohol Fetal Syndrome in the world.
Yesterday we were with the children for the first time, so we just did a bunch of get-to-know-you activities. The teacher was absent due to a family emergency (and there was no substitute) so we were teacher-less for the first day. It created some difficulties here and there but overall I felt the first day was pretty successful.
As for my other classes, I decided to only take Gender and Identity in Africa (a political science class). I am only taking 12 credits this semester but between LSCE and traveling I don’t think I could handle more classes. It is a huge challenge to do homework sometimes because of all the activities I have been doing here—sometimes it feels like I am on a vacation but then I also realize I also have work to do.
Anyway, I’ll write about my weekend now. I traveled to this surf town called Muizenberg (it was voted by National Geographic to be one of the worlds best surf towns). Muizenberg is about 20 minutes from Cape Town so it was not too far away from Stellenbosch. However, we took the train (and had to transfer) so it took us about two hours to get there. The train was an interesting experience. When you take the train from Stellenbosch to Cape Town you pass through all the poorer “black townships” (making the train a little dangerous unless if you go during the day and with a group of people). It was shocking and unsettling to see all the poverty when I was traveling. The train itself was clearly older than the trains I am used to in the states. The doors were not automatic, you had to open them yourselves—most doors were just kept open when the train was moving and people would just hang out of them. People were selling snacks on the train, singing songs, and dancing in order to make some money—it was pretty sad to see. At one point about a group of 8 girls who were no older than 6 or 7 were dancing and singing to make money…also very upsetting to see. Muizenberg itself was so awesome. We stayed at a hostel called Stoked. I really enjoyed staying there because there were so many interesting people from all around the world who we were able to talk to. We spent most of the time at the beach just relaxing. It was a great weekend. Going back to my last blog post about living in the moment, Muizenberg (being the surfing, relaxing town it was) made my feel so content with everything (and I think all the people I traveled with felt the same way). I was sad to leave but I also realize that everywhere I go in South Africa is just so beautiful that I can feel content really anywhere. The ride back was a little more difficult—it took us five hours to get home (since a lot of things in South Africa seem to be inefficient) but we made it!
The last interesting thing I did in the past week was go to a rugby game! University of Stellenbosch was against University of Cape Town (a big rival)—we lost, but it was very interesting to see what a rugby is like! The most interesting thing I thought was that they played loud music the whole time (even when they were playing). I enjoyed that since I had absolutely no idea what was going on in the game anyway, and the music made it more interesting. They even played Sweet Caroline (it made my think of Pitt football games).
Overall, a lot happened this week! I feel that I learned a lot this week… I cannot even begin to wrap my head around how much I will learn by the end of my time in South Africa.
Lastly, I broke my computer last week (I spilled water on it) and by some miracle, I got my computer back today and it is working! I was computer-less for a week, which made contacting friends and family a little difficult. However, for some reason I never really panicked about not having a computer (if I were back home I would have probably freaked out). From all the activities I have done this week, I came to an understanding that no matter how much it would suck to not have a computer while here, I have no right to complain when there is so much poverty everywhere. I have learned while here that I have to be innovative and work through difficult circumstances. I was talking to Rachel the other night and told her just how important it is to study abroad. I cannot even begin to explain how much being in South Africa so far has taught me. The experience is at times absolutely crazy and extremely difficult, but at the same time being here is the best choice I have ever made in my life. I couldn’t imagine myself studying anywhere else—I really am so happy.
Until next time!,