Week 12

Hey everyone!

Today marks half way through April—how crazy! My time here is really beginning to dwindle down. I have about 1.5 months left until I return to the states, and I know the time will fly by extremely fast. It’s a very sad and happy thought at the same time. However, I still have a lot of adventures in the 1.5 months I’m here so the thought of leaving is not close in my thoughts.

This past Thursday I decided to participate in the International Food Evening at Stellenbosch University. I thought the night would consist of a bunch of countries simply giving out samples of their food. However, Wednesday afternoon when I collected pots and pans from the International Office, I realized I was in for a little bit of a bigger project than I thought. First, the pans were what I would imagine the cafeteria at my high school would have used—they were huge. Shocked by how much food was expected to be made by each country, I turned to a Kenyan man next to me and asked him how much food he was making. After his list went on and on about what he was making, after he collected his 9 pots that he (and his friends) were going to use, and lastly, after he requested a second table for a TV that they were going to use for a slideshow, I realized that I was a little in over my head. After struggling to carry all the pots back by myself in 90 degree weather, my friends and I decided we should start cooking Wednesday night (as the International Food Evening was Thursday). We made Macaroni and Cheese (with bacon of course), 7 Layer Dip, Apple Pie, and Ranch dressing (they don’t have Ranch here for some reason). After cooking with Colleen all day Thursday, we finished the food (and were pretty happy with how it all turned out!). About 10 of the Americans and I wore red, white, and blue in order to have a little decoration. The outside of the International Food Night had all the flags participating, and of course the American flag was double the size of every other flag. I asked why that was, and the Stellenbosch staff said that, “Americans always overdo everything”. Anyway, after being out of the country for 3 or so months, I have begun to understand some of the American stereotypes…but I am still not comfortable when America ends up being the topic of many jokes. However, the International Food Night turned out really well and I am so happy I participated. I ate food from many different countries—Rwanda, Iran, Sweden, Germany, Zimbabwe, etc. I even at a worm from the Zimbabwe table! As a study abroad student in South Africa, I have really been given an amazing opportunity to talk to students from ALL over the world. It really has been eye opening.

Love my fellow Americans!

Love my fellow Americans!

International Food Evening

International Food Evening

You can never have enough cheese

You can never have enough cheese

America!

America!

Last time eating a worm

Last time eating a worm

On Friday I had LSCE, and presented my constructivism presentation. I am very happy how my presentation turned out. Following LSCE, a few LSCE students and I went to get some food. Over the past couple months, I have grown really close to my fellow LSCE students. They are all really great people, who bring their own experiences and knowledge to class every Monday and Friday. I have learned so much through their (and my teacher’s) stories, opinions, and experiences. Because South Africa has a lot of holidays and random days off, I only have two more Monday and Friday classes before our Celebration of Work finale. I will really miss LSCE…The class has easily been one of the best parts of my time in South Africa.

On Saturday a group of the LSCE students and I went into Lynedoch to begin painting the main walls of the primary school. We are painting an ocean scene. On our way back home, we got stuck on a non-moving train for about an hour. South Africa has been in a hot spell for the past few days, so it was 95 degrees when we were stuck. It felt like I was inside a human oven. But, as we always do when we take the train home from Lynedoch, we blasted some music from speakers (another way to tell everyone, “hey, we aren’t from here!”) and made it through. Saturday night, some friends and I went to an international-South African party. We left pretty early since we had to wake up at 6:30 am to leave for the Table Mountain hike.

Saturday Night

Saturday Night

Painting Lyendoch

Painting Lyendoch

Typical South Africa..Everyone sitting on the train tracks when the train breaks down

Typical South Africa..Everyone sitting on the train tracks when the train breaks down

On Sunday I finally completed the infamous Table Mountain hike. Table Mountain is one of the 7 wonders of nature because of the vast amount of wildlife diversity in the particular amount of space. I was very excited to finally see the infamous view of Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain. I went through the International Office, so my friends and I didn’t begin hiking till about 9:45 am (a HUGE mistake…we should have began around 6 am). It took about 2 hours to get up the mountain, but it was definitely one of the most difficult 2 hours I have ever lived. It was 95 degrees out, no shade, and the path was basically like walking up uneven stairs the whole time. I honestly did not think I would make it to the top. My friends and I basically had to take a break every 30 seconds of walking because it became so challenging. Needless to say, when I finally reached the top, I was so relieved and happy. We had about two hours on top of the mountain, so we ate food and took the classic Table Mountain pictures. I was way too exhausted to hike back down the mountain, so I opted to pay for the cable car ride back on—It was probably the best ten dollars I have spent since I have arrived in South Africa. I was surprised how fast the cable car went, and the bottom of the car spun in a circle so you got a view of all the scenery. It was pretty cool.

We climbed up this green patch here

We climbed up this green patch here

We survived Table Mountain!

We survived Table Mountain!

Top of Table Mountain

Top of Table Mountain

Never a bad view in South Africa

Never a bad view in South Africa

Yesterday (Monday), I had LSCE. The LSCE students and I completed our special project with the learners (a fair). After our lessons, we had a brass band come so the children can hear the different instruments and listen to some music. Following the brass band, the kids put on a talent show—Grade 5 was awesome…I am very proud of my class. Following the talent show, every LSCE grade group created a different activity that the children could chose to do. My LSCE group and I did face painting. I basically just painted a lot of butterflies on the girls and a lot of South African flags on the boys. The fair went well, but after Table Mountain and running around with children for 7 hours on Monday, I was beyond exhausted.

Today I received a package from my mom and it made my day. So thanks mom, I love you! This weekend I am traveling to Hermanus if all goes smoothly—where I can see a lot of whales and also where I am planning to go shark cage diving.

Happy Easter and Passover everyone!

Until next time,

Leah

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A South African “Spring” Break–Week 11

Hey Everyone!

Sorry about how lengthy this blog post is…

This past week or so has been one of the most exciting, fun, and adventurous weeks of my life. I am still not sure what the school break in South Africa is called since it is not spring here right now. We are progressing into winter slowly, but no one ever seems to call the season “fall”. Today is about 85 degrees (so winter!), but the other day it was in the 60s (still not winter…but the South Africans dress in serious winter jackets in this weather). The temperature varies pretty intensely. Anyway, I got back this Sunday from a 9-day vacation (but anyone could easily argue that my whole semester has been one long vacation). This past “spring” break has been one adventure after another while staying at the most breathtaking hostels and farms/camping sites. I had internet for about 10 minutes during three times of my spring break… it strangely added to the amazingness of the week. No one was focused on his or her phone or telling their friends/family about everything they have been doing. Instead, everyone was living in the present. Actually, many of us had no choice but to live in the present since we didn’t know the actual itinerary of our trip (just out of pure laziness of not looking it up). We lived day by day in what I now easily call the most beautiful country I have ever seen. Our spring break included some time on the Garden Route and some time near and in Addo National Elephant Park.

We left for spring break two Fridays ago after my LSCE class. After driving about 5 hours, we arrived in a town called Wilderness. Due to my laziness, and not knowing anywhere I was going this whole trip, I thought the person driving was joking with me the whole time when he said, “we are going to the wilderness”. But, we actually were going to the Wilderness, and it was absolutely beautiful. We stayed in a hostel that was right on the ocean. There were giant windows in our rooms so we could easily see the sunrise over the ocean. On Saturday when I woke up, about ten of us decided to go kloofing—a really popular water activity in South Africa. We all put on wet suits and life jackets and got ready to swim for about 4 hours in freezing cold water. For some reason, all the adult life preservers were to big, so I was given a child’s life preserver. It was pretty funny, but looked really ridiculous. We swam down the river, and walked across rocks (that were very slippery…I still have multiple bruises from this activity), and jumped off cliffs. The highest cliff I jumped off was about 8 meters (and it felt very high). That night we had a South African braai at the hostel and then (through the suggestion of the hostels owner) went to a trance party at a nearby hostel for my friend’s birthday. The whole experience was interesting, and was a great place to people watch. Many of the people were on some sort of drug and were dancing to trance music with a bunch of lights. There were also these crazy looking drawings along the walls. The people there were also from a huge age range—I would say anywhere form 18 to 50. After about an hour or so, I had had enough fun people watching, and tried to leave with a few friends but couldn’t because all the cars blocked us in. We ended up having to stay till about 1 am. We did get a pretty ironic hat out of it all though…some guy was trying to promote his business so he gave us all hats that said “KIR” on it (it stood for “Keep it Random”)—pretty much described the whole night. About two days later we were driving and we saw a KIR bumper sticker on a car.

Wilderness

Wilderness

Kloofing

Kloofing

Kloofing

Kloofing

KIR

KIR

I woke up Sunday for the sunrise (I actually woke up about 5 out of the 9 days of vacation to see the sunrise). Today we went to an ostrich farm and went to the Cango Caves. The ostriches were really strange animals, but were surprisingly somewhat majestic looking. Their eyes were HUGE, and their feet looked like dinosaurs. We got to take pictures with them and do the typical touristy things. While I really enjoyed seeing the ostriches, the whole farm seemed somewhat inhumane…it just seemed that their cages were too tiny. Although I think this is very wrong, I took the chance I had and rode an ostrich (as my friends and I say here: T.I.A—This Is Africa…and when/where else will I have the chance to ride and ostrich). The Ostrich ran really fast and I lasted maybe 4 seconds before I flew off the ostrich and fell on the ground. After the ostriches, we went to Cango Caves…I chose to do the adventure path (which just meant tinier crawling spaces). The caves were really neat and huge inside (I believe they are about 5 km in length).

Cango Caves

Cango Caves

About to ride and ostrich

About to ride and ostrich

OStriches!

OStriches!

Antler's Lodge

Antler’s Lodge

Antler's Lodge

Antler’s Lodge

Afterward, we drove about two hours to our next destination: Antler’s lodge. This hostel/open land was so incredible. We stayed in really nice hut looking houses and right outside our window was a beautiful pond and a pool. We stayed here for three nights and had campfires, and just hung outside all day. On Monday we woke up for BUNGEE JUMPING! The whole week I told myself I wasn’t going to be able to bungee jump, but I woke up on Monday morning with a different mindset. I was determined to jump off that bridge even though I hated the thought of it. The jump itself is 216 meters…making it the highest bungee jump bridge in the world. Once getting to the bungee jump place, we were weighed, put in harnesses, and were pointed in the direction to walk onto the bridge. The scariest part was walking to where we jump off…it was about a 3 minute walk on gate-like material so if you were to look down you could see how high you are up (and it looked SO high). I looked down once, panicked, and from there on did not look down again until I took my first step of the bridge (and of course panicked again in the air but there was nothing I could do at that point). There was loud music playing on the bridge so everyone was pretty excited—the music helped A LOT. I ended up being second last to go (and had to watch about 15 people jump off a bridge before me). Once I was on the edge, the two men holding my harness yelled, “3,2,1, BUNGEE”. If you don’t jump off, they push you a little so you do. I completely froze and my jump turned into more of a walk of the bridge…my screaming turned into laughing when I realized I survived the first fall. All I could hear was my laughter and the wind brushing past my ears…plus I was looking at the most beautiful scene EVER. It was really an incredible feeling and I will admit that I am very proud of myself for doing it. However, since I am not an adrenaline junkie…I will say skydiving was my favorite out of the two.

Here is my Bungee Jump Video: ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZ3FOIz7SO8&feature=youtu.be

About to bungee jump (attempting to look calm)

About to bungee jump (attempting to look calm)

BUNGEE JUMPING!

BUNGEE JUMPING!

The reason why I bungee jumped

The reason why I bungee jumped

Following bungee jumping, some friends and I went into town and got some lunch and walked around Knysna waterfront. That night we hung out around the campfire and gave everyone spirit animals. I got a sea turtle because evidently I am an awkward turtle (although, I like to take that as my friends indirectly saying I’m really funny). However, the following day we went to monkey land, and my sprit animal was changed to a lemur when everyone realized how big a lemur’s eyes are.

Tuesday was the first day of April…I cannot believe that I have been here for so long! I thought it would have been funny to jump of a bridge on April Fools day, but we missed it by one day! April Fools day isn’t really a thing here though. Today we went to monkeyland, which was SO awesome. The monkeys were so cute and were everywhere. After the lions I saw later on during the trip, the monkeys were my second favorite animal (and right behind that, the zebras). After monkeyland, we went to Tenikwa, an animal awareness center and saw cheetahs, Jaguars, etc. For lunch we went to a wine farm (of course), and then went to Knysna Elephant Park. We got to feed the elephants and take pictures with them up close. The elephants were kind of weird feeling—I didn’t know they had hair all over them. But they were still really awesome and huge looking.

monkeys!

monkeys!

Cheetah!

Cheetah!

Feeding the elephants at Knysna Elephant Park

Feeding the elephants at Knysna Elephant Park

On Wednesday we left the Garden Route for Addo National Elephant Park. After driving for a while we arrived at Avoca River Cabins (half way we stopped at Tsitsikamma National Park to each lunch and walk along long suspension bridges). As the name suggests, we stayed in awesome looking cabin/huts right on a river. Some friends and I swam in the river for a little even though it was pretty cold outside. Afterwards, we all ate dinner and went to bed pretty early. On Thursday we drove to Addo National Park and went on a safari. We saw lions, elephants, zebras, etc. The lions were my favorite because they are so majestic and beautiful (and are my favorite animal!). We also saw multiple elephants block the rode, which was funny. After Addo, we drove to Jeffrey’s Bay—a really famous surf town. Jeffrey’s bay reminded me a little of the California coast—really nice houses and a relaxed atmosphere. We went to the billabong outlet store and since we are officially past our halfway point, everyone is beginning to look for souvenirs.

Suspension Bridge in Tsitsikamma

Suspension Bridge in Tsitsikamma

LIONS!

LIONS!

Addo Elephant Park

Addo Elephant Park

Avoca River Cabins

Avoca River Cabins

Avoca River Cabins

Avoca River Cabins

Jeffrey's Bay

Jeffrey’s Bay

Jerffrey's Bay

Jerffrey’s Bay

On Friday we left for Swellendam. Halfway through the drive we stopped at Mossel Bay (Or how they spell/stay it in Africkans, Mossel baai) for lunch and to walk around the beach. After about 6 hours we arrived at our “camping site”. We didn’t sleep in tents, but we slept in little cabins that looked like tents. They had holes all over so bugs could move in and out as they please. Luckily, I didn’t have much trouble with the bugs; instead Kelsey (who I shared the cabin with) and I just dealt with some really loud rodents in or very close to our cabin. It was really pretty creepy and they were really loud at night. There was nothing I could do though, so I just would go back to bed every time the rodents would wake me up. On Saturday, we went white water rafting. Kelsey and I were in a boat together. For the most part the rapids were not too difficult…but by the end my arms were really sore. Afterwards, we got to drive in the back of a truck (which is 100% legal here…everyone does it, even on highways). We stayed in Swellendam for 2 nights, and I think it was my favorite place I stayed. Even though there were rats or something in my cabin, and I had to sleep with three jackets on because it got so cold at nigh, the view was absolutely beautiful. We stayed in the middle of nowhere and there was just farmland and mountains all around us. There was a river as well…it was all so scenic and serene. I felt like it was the perfect way to end my amazing spring break. The peacefulness of the area gave everyone some time to reflect on all the adventures we went on in the past week.

Swellendam

Swellendam

Swellendam

Swellendam

Cabin-like tint in Swellendam

Cabin-like tint in Swellendam

White Water Rafting

White Water Rafting

On Sunday we began to drive back to Stellenbosch. We stopped in Cape Agulhas (the southernmost tip of South Africa) where the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean meet. From there we drove to Hermanus…a really cute town known for whale spotting’s. We did get to see a whale…pretty neat. Some friends and I are planning on returning to Hermanus for Easter break… I am so excited!

Southernmost tip of Africa

Southernmost tip of Africa

I dreaded coming back to my schoolwork on Sunday, but I was happy to stop living out of a little suitcase. The past week was undoubtedly one of the best weeks of my life. As of Sunday, I have only two months left in South Africa. I am done my classes in about a month, and from there will have a couple weeks to travel. Thinking about all the amazing memories I have made so far is almost overwhelming, but also so incredible.

I have a 1.5-hour presentation on constructivism for LSCE this Friday, and I have a paper on racism due for LSCE next week—probably the most amount of homework I have had since I have arrived. On Thursday is International Food Evening, and for some reason decided to sign up for a table without knowing how to cook. On Sunday, I am hiking Table Mountain with some friends.

Thanks for reading this ridiculously long blog!

Until next time,

Leah

Week 9

Hi Everyone!

This past weekend was pretty fun/exciting! We didn’t have any class on Friday because of Human Rights Day, and tomorrow I do not have LSCE because the students have standardized tests that need to be completed. So, I have a 6-day weekend! Pretty crazy.

This past Thursday some friends and I went to Kirstenbosch Gardens to see an outdoor concert. An American singer named Donovan Frankenreiter (sounded somewhat similar to Jack Johnson) opened for KT Tunstall—someone I never thought I would see, but she was pretty good!

Kirstenbosch Gardens

Kirstenbosch Gardens

On Friday we left for our weekend Cape Town/Simon’s Town adventure. On Friday we took a bus (through the international office) to the Holi Festival in Cape Town. For those of you who don’t know, the Holi Festival is basically the color run but without the running and a lot of music (so, better than the color run in my opinion). It was really fun but also extremely tiring so we only stayed about 3 or so hours. The powered colored stuff was also a little difficult to breath in after a while. Afterwards, we went back to our hostel (which was extremely nice) and eventually left to walk down Long Street (the most popular street in Cape Town—a lot of bars and restaurants). We were able to chose the music they played at this particular restaurant we went to so of course we chose Beyoncé. After eating, we went to a few bars. My one friend and I got carded at one…apparently we look like we are 17 or younger (I know I look young, but not THAT young). After a while, we split up into two groups—one staying out late and one going back to sleep (which I did).

ONCE backpackers-long street

ONCE backpackers-long street

Holi

Holi

Holi

Holi

Kirstenbosch Gardens

Kirstenbosch Gardens

Long Street

Long Street

ONCE backpackers

ONCE backpackers

On Saturday we woke up and walked around Long Street and looked at some shops. We ate lunch at a Mexican restaurant (SO exciting since there is really no Mexican food here). Afterwards we went to a Museum about an area called District Six.  Before Apartheid, District Six was a community that included people of all nationalities and backgrounds. From what I learned, it was not the most wealthy community, but everyone respected each other and were proud to live there. When the Apartheid regime came into effect, all the houses were destroyed and the black and colored population was forced to move into the Townships. The new “District Six” became an only white neighborhood. After the Apartheid era was over, about 2,000 people reclaimed their land (about 60,000 people were removed though). Anyway,  the Museum was pretty interesting (but also reminded me how grateful I am that I chose South Africa and do not feel pressured to go to museums). After the Museum, Colleen, Juliana, and I took the train about an hour to Simon’s Town (a little beach town towards the very tip of Africa). We went to the beach for a little, ate at a local fish and chips restaurant, and then relaxed at the hostel.

Simon's Town

Simon’s Town

Simon's Town

Simon’s Town

District Six Meusem

District Six Meusem

District Six Meusem

District Six Meusem

SImon's Town hostel

SImon’s Town hostel

MEXICAN FOOD

MEXICAN FOOD

Today we went back to Cape Town and went to the Waterfront. We got lunch and then went on a boat ride. The waves were pretty huge so it was actually really fun! We even got to see a whale, a penguin, and a seal! But, I will see many more of those animals plus tons of other animals in the next month or so. After the boat ride, we finally went back to Stellenbosch.

Waterfront

Waterfront

SEAL

SEAL

This upcoming week marks my half way point in South Africa! I have a presentation and a paper due so I have to seriously begin doing homework. However, Friday I leave for my spring break trip! I am going with my AIFS program on the Garden Route (down the coast of South Africa) for a few days and then Addo Elephant Park for a few days. I cannot wait!

Until next time,

Leah

Week 8

Hey everyone!

I am getting a little behind on these blog posts. This past week has been fairly relaxing so I am going to make this quick (in preparation for some exciting weeks coming up!). Tomorrow marks my two months since leaving America…how crazy. Time is FLYING by at a scary rate and I know it will just keep getting faster.

This past Monday I probably had the most hectic day at LSCE. The train that we take every class came early, so half of the class missed it (which meant rescheduling some of our lesson plan with the children).  Similar to the dysfunction in the morning, we had to run to the train when we were leaving from LSCE. It seemed like something out of a movie…where the actor is running toward the train and jumps on right before it beings moving again (something like that).  Besides the hectic lesson plans/transportation, the day went fairly well since the children are always so eager for us to come.

LSCE grade 5

LSCE grade 5

Last Thursday I went to a Braai (South African barbecue) with some friends in a dormitory nearby. In South Africa, there is a braai at EVERY event.

This past Friday I stayed at LSCE for 11 hours because the school had it’s annual bazaar. They sold a lot of food, candy, desserts, vegetables, etc. The whole community came out to support the school, and we got to meet some of the student’s parents, which was nice. Overall, the day was fun, but was also extremely exhausting.

On Saturday I went with two friends on a wine tour to multiple wine farms. I am proud to say that I am FINALLY beginning to be okay with the taste of wine! But, I am also getting tired of having wine at every event, including school functions. We got to see Spier Wine Farm—they donated 1.5 million Rands to the Lynedoch School plus fund a few teacher’s salaries.  While some farms treat their workers horribly, Spier (where some of the kid’s parents work) treat their workers fairly. The weather was perfect since it is beginning to cool down (unfortunately also marking the beginning to the raining season).

Alto Wine Farm

Alto Wine Farm

Alto Wine Farm tasting area

Alto Wine Farm tasting area

Megan and I at Spier

Megan and I at Spier

On Sunday I went with my LSCE class to a nearby coloured community called Pniel. Pniel is the first non-white community that I have seen that is doing well financially. The houses in the community were the first I have seen (for all communities) in the fast two months without bars on their window and barbed wire on a fence. The community members were so proud of their homes and history.  We went to the community (congressional) church service and then were divided up in order to go with different families for lunch. The church congregation altered their service from Afrikaans to English when we went and they had a band for us.  It was really nice! I went with Colleen to a family’s house for lunch afterward. The family had two daughters around our age, so it was really interesting and fun to talk to them. While there, I realized it was my first time being in a home for 2 months! The house felt so homey, it was a nice change of scenery for a little. The family was extremely hospitable and so welcoming.  Anyway, it was really great seeing a community that was thriving in South Africa!

Church band in Pniel

Church band in Pniel

Homes in Pniel

Homes in Pniel

Community church in Pniel

Community church in Pniel

This weekend I am heading to Cape Town and Simon’s Head. And next Friday I leave for spring break! I finally get to see the big 5 animals that Africa is famous for. I cannot wait!

On a side note, I only have 4 classes in the next three weeks. Maybe that will convince more of you to study abroad in South Africa (although convincing shouldn’t be necessary because studying abroad here is AMAZING).

Until next time,

Leah

Week 7

Hi everyone!

I realized I am a little off with the weeks on my blog… I am about to start week 8 of being in South Africa (I am not too sure how I am THAT off but oh well). Next week will mark two months of being here…how crazy! This week has not been too exciting, I have decided to hang around Cape Town and Stellenbosch until all the craziness of spring break comes up. But, South Africa is always a fun time no matter where you go and what you are doing.

This past weekend some friends and I went to Cape Town for the Cape Town Pride Festival. It was really fun! The festival and parade were similar to Americas (at least compared to the ones in Philadelphia), but it was interesting seeing a South African twist to it. Many of the participants in the parade had signs focused on African gay right issues (which impelled me to do some research on my own. I found it crazy to learn that in Nigeria you can not only receive a 14 year jail sentence for being gay but also are sentenced to a certain number of “lashes”…it is extremely barbaric). There were even some participants in the parade who were refugees from their countries because of their sexuality.

Cape Town Pride Festival--Stellenbosch University float

Cape Town Pride Festival–Stellenbosch University float

Cape Town Pride Festival

Cape Town Pride Festival

Cape Town Pride Festival

Cape Town Pride Festival

Cape Town Pride Festival

Cape Town Pride Festival

Also on a similar note (and back to the fact that I find it extremely hard to do homework here), I finally began researching topics for my essay in Gender and Identity in Africa. After a while, I decided to focus on the psychological effects of child marriage in South Sudan. Through my research of trying to figure out a topic, I read about some of the most disturbing human rights violations in Africa.  The list really goes on and on.

But, this all made me wonder: why am I choosing to learn so much about what is going on in Africa, but (when I am at home) I don’t chose to deeply research the problems in America. So many people feel (I too) that in order to really do serious (for lack of better word) “volunteering”, it should be internationally. However, now that I am here, I really don’t understand that idea. It is almost hypocritical that I would go around preaching the injustices of human rights in Africa, but not even really understand the true problems in America. For example (in a South African perspective), I saw 12 Years of Slave about a week ago (as disturbing as it was, everyone should see it). At the end, a lot of people were crying and of course since I am in South Africa, it was mostly South African’s crying. The whole concept is pretty crazy since in a daily South African’s day, they will have seen people begging for food, money, houses built of medal, etc.. So if they are so sad about treatment of slaves, why are they not sad/ doing much about the treatment of the black/coloured population here?  However, don’t get me wrong (this is not a generalization of the whole population), there are many people in South Africa who are the most accepting and awesome people I have ever met.

Anyway, I just went off on a little bit of a tangent. And just so I don’t bore you all too much, I am not going to go into what I have learned this past week on the global water/food crisis. But, if you have time, check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raSHAqV8K9c

Back to what I have been doing in South Africa. This past Sunday I just did some homework and made a pretty extensive Day of the Dead alter since we were teaching Mexico in to our LSCE class on Monday. The Day of the Dead alter turned out well. The class ended up turning into a giant dance party. The kids really enjoyed it!

This past week I just hung around Stellenbosch and explored. On Wednesday I went to a wine bar with some Norwegians, Swedish people, and South Africans. Yesterday (Saturday), I went to the Stellenbosch market about 2 miles away from my dorm. There was so much food, desserts, and a lot of free samples (awesome). I also found Mexican food (they don’t have Mexican food here…very sad). In the evening I went to a house party. The house parties here are a little more intense than the ones back at Pitt: they all have djs, bands, security, etc. It was fun but I didn’t stay to long since I woke up early today to go to Cape Town. In Cape Town I just walked around with some friends and ate A LOT of food. We went to the Cape Town market on the waterfront where they had some really awesome food. We hung around the waterfront and just enjoyed the view. It is extremely windy today and the temperature is finally dropping (thank god). Also, when I was in Cape Town I saw someone with a Pitt sweater on! (SO COOL)! I of course had to go up to him and ask if he went to Pitt. It turned out that his brother goes there and is the captain of the swim team. He said he was going to Pitt next year. It was really awesome/made me feel at home for a little.  Tonight I am finally going to see the infamous movie, Frozen.

Cape Town Train Station

Cape Town Train Station

The band at the House Party

The band at the House Party

IMG_1731

Stellenbosch Food market

Stellenbosch Food market

Also, Random fact: I tried Ostrich for the first time and it was so good!

Until next week,

Leah

Week 5

Hey everyone!

This past week or so I have really begun to understand the “study” aspect to study abroad. Between essays, lesson plans, presentations (and so on), it finally hit me that I am at a university. However, I have classes only three days out of the week, so I have little space to complain. My LSCE work is time consuming and the class is physically draining (I give SO much credit to teachers) but I still absolutely love it. This past Friday we went to an elderly coloured woman’s house (in South Africa you have white, black, or coloured people—meaning they are not fully black. For example, my teacher is coloured since his grandmother was white but the rest of his family is black. It is interesting to think about this aspect in relation to the apartheid era…a coloured person with white grandparents possibly could have shared the same grandmother/grandfather as a white person, but socially, political, economically (etc.) have very little rights compared to his/her supposed cousin).  Anyway, the elderly lady shared her stories and thoughts on what it was like growing up as a worker on a farm during apartheid (80% of the students at Lynedoch have parents who work on a farm—they make about 33 dollars a month (350 Rands).

(Emmy and I) Walking to the elderly lady's home at a farm near Lynedoch

(Emmy and I) Walking to the elderly lady’s home at a farm near Lynedoch

Following LSCE this past Friday, the AIFS students went straight to our trip at Cederberg Mountains. Cederberg is about a 3.5 hour drive from Stellenbosch.  About an hour of the drive was on a rocky, dirt road which made for a very comfortable drive! We stayed in little houses surrounded by mountains, nature, many lizards, and little rivers. It was incredibly beautiful. When we arrived on Friday we had a braai (South Africa’s better version of a barbeque), and made s’mores (they don’t have graham crackers here though. Another thing they don’t have here: reeses peanut butter cups…how sad).  I fell asleep pretty early in order to wake up at 6am for our 5 hour hike the next day.

Where we stayed... pretty nice for a campground!

Where we stayed… pretty nice for a campground!

Cederberg

Cederberg

The hike up was just your average hike up a mountain (except with more amazing views than I have seen on any other mountain so far—although, Lion’s Head from last weekend would be right behind it) until we made it to what was called the “cracks”. It basically means exactly what it’s called— we had to climb through many cracks to get to the top. One in particular was called the “birth canal” cause it required someone to basically pull you through a tight area…it was pretty funny. Needless to say, once we finally got to the top I felt pretty relieved. The views were endless and so peaceful. We took a less strenuous route back down the mountain. Towards the end, some of us were either extremely dehydrated, sick, etc. but we all made it (and thanks to my cousin Bethany and her camelback I felt fine except for a bunch of scratches and a few bruises here and there)!  After the hike we all ran into the river with all our clothes on and then slept for a little until a wine tasting later in the day.

We hiked this mountain!

We hiked this mountain!…the “cracks” part is where the brown rock is towards the top of the mountain

Easily the most scary part of climbing of the Cederberg Mountain

Easily the most scary part of climbing of the Cederberg Mountain

Later for dinner we had another braai. I underestimated how difficult it was to braai and volunteered to make the chicken. I enjoyed doing it, but it was extremely heavy—I guess the 5 hour hike wasn’t enough of a work out for me in one day. After we went to an observatory. There was no light anywhere, so we could see all the stars, planets, and the milky way. I even saw a few shooting stars! It was incredible.

Braaiing

Braaiing

Just a sample of all the stars you could see (this is Juliana's photo...I have no idea how she captured the stars so well)

Just a sample of all the stars you could see (this is Juliana’s photo…I have no idea how she captured the stars so well)

On Sunday we packed up and left Cederberg and stopped to see some cave paintings on the way home. Once I got home, I had a decent amount of homework for LSCE due that day at 12 AM…but I successfully got it all done!

Cave Paintings

Cave Paintings

I had a great weekend. Like Mama H (Hestea, our resident director) said on Saturday, this is the lekker lewe. The good life.

Until next time and with love from South Africa,

Leah

Week Four

Hey everyone!

I have officially been in South Africa for a month! It is crazy how fast time is flying by. This past week has been great (as it always is in South Africa).

This past Thursday I went to Cape Town with two friends, got lunch, and walked around. The president (Jacob Zuma) was giving his address that day (it also announced the opening of the Parliament) so the city was pretty busy. The election will be going on while I am here, and I am extremely interested to see how it plays out. I have learned so much about Jacob Zuma and the government since I have been here (and it’s effect on the nation).  It is really very interesting, and if any of you are bored you should look into Zuma a little.

Saturday night I went with two friends to Lion’s Head mountain in Cape Town for a full moon hike. We began the hike around 6:45 PM and were able to see the sunset from the top…it was absolutely beautiful. The hike did not take long, but it was a little difficult. The top was pretty steep (we were basically rock climbing towards the end). On the way back down it was completely dark (thanks to my mom’s packing, I did have a flashlight!). Everywhere I have been in South Africa has been SO beautiful and scenic—more people should really travel here. My friends and I have been talking about what will be the most difficult thing when we eventually come home, and after thinking about it, I think it will be trying to explain everything I have seen. It is impossible to understand South Africa unless you have been here.  It’s really just mind-blowing how much poverty you can see on one side of a road and then turn your head to the other side and see the most beautiful and relaxed scene. The two just don’t seem to fit together.  Also, on the way home we saw a HUGE fire on a vineyard. It was really pretty terrifying, and also sad because a lot of people work on the vineyard and need the money (even though the pay is barely enough to survive already).

Lion's Head

Lion’s Head

Lion's Head

Lion’s Head

Lion's HEad

Lion’s Head

On Sunday I went with AIFS to see Freshlyground in Kirstenbosch, Cape Town. If any of you are curious, Freshlyground played the song Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) with Shakira. At the end of the song the band played Waka Waka and it was so cool! It was so serene and perfect listening to the song while in Africa. Kirstenbosch is a beautiful garden (that is once again surrounded by mountains). It was over 100 degrees on Sunday so that was a little difficult, but we sat in the shade and pushed through. It has been really hot lately (at least the mid-upper 90s)—February is the hottest month in South Africa. There is no air conditioning in my dorm room (or really anywhere here) so that can make it a little difficult sometimes.

Kirstenbosch, Cape Town
Kirstenbosch, Cape Town

Lastly, today (Tuesday) I went skydiving! For those of you who don’t know, I really dislike roller coasters. Needless to say, I was pretty proud of myself! Skydiving was the most amazing thing I have EVER done. We were 3 km in the air when I jumped (a little less than 2 miles). I was terrified, but once I jumped all my fears went away and it was so fun! I was free falling for about 30 seconds (my favorite part) and then was in the air for about 5 minutes once the parachute opened. Everyone should really skydive at some point in their life.  It was really so crazy and awesome!

Sky diving!
Sky diving!
Sky diving!
Sky diving!
Sky diving!
Sky diving!

LSCE has been going really well and I am really optimistic for my semester with the grade 5 class.  Below are two youtube videos that further explain Lynedoch Primary School and the LSCE class.  The first clip has Grant Demas, my LSCE teacher in it. The second is the past LSCE groups end of the year presentation (what Grant calls the “celebration of work”).

Lynedoch
Lynedoch

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lw_BUwcAMJE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxF4u00Sd0Q

Until Next time!,

Leah