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Monday, May 9, 2011

Home-bound


May 5, 2011
Minneapolis Airport

I’m in America. Not Spokane, yet, but close. I’m waiting in Minneapolis to board my last flight. It’s a weird feeling. I feel like tomorrow I’ll still be waking up in my Cape Town home, but in all actuality, I don’t know when I’ll be back there. I definitely do hope to go back at some point, though.
It’s been a while since I’ve updated, so let me see what I can remember…
When we got home from the Eastern Cape (which was by far one of my favorite things I did in South Africa), we had about 3 days before we began our service-learning class. It was…alright. For the first week, we stayed in the township Guguletu. In case you don’t know, a township is basically a shanty town where the blacks were forced to move into during the apartheid, and where most still live today. However, our experience wasn’t so much a shack house, they were probably the nicest houses in the township, and the biggest sacrifice I made was a cold bath. This was a bit of a relief at first, as I thought I would be bug infested and taking bucket showers, but it was also a disappointment. I feel that the shack houses are the “true” township life, and so I didn’t feel like I really experienced that. Each day, we went to a center/church in the township called JL Zwane, which has numerous programs to help the community. We did some cleaning, learned about the programs, and helped with the “rainbow school” after-school program. A couple of the days we went out and met some people in the community, particularly people who suffer from HIV/AIDS and/or cancer. This is all sounds great, right? The idea was great. However, the cleaning we were doing wasn’t necessary (we cleaned the same windows 3 times in the 2 weeks we were there), and the people we met were kind of displayed as show animals. We would go into the home, a lady would introduce us to the patient, and then the lady would tell his story instead of him telling it himself (even though he was perfectly capable). The second week we were there, we were bussed in each day, and it was really a waste of time. We spent at least half our time playing cards (with each other, not with people from the community), and the other half doing things…like cleaning the windows. We did get to paint a house, so that was cool. I did learn some stuff from it, but in all honesty, it was quite a disappointment. We were honest with the people in charge of it, so hopefully changes will be made for next year.
The last 2 weeks were spent doing whatever we wanted. Krystle and I rode the train into town a few times to explore and do some souvenir shopping. It was nice to hang out with the family and just be lazy, but we also made sure to go out and enjoy the city while we could. We stayed at our friend Luke’s place that he was house-sitting, and then went to Easter dinner at his family’s house the next day. That was super nice, and we met his cousin who we ended up hanging out with a couple more times.
I did too much to do a day-by-day explanation, but I’ll be happy to fill you all in when I see you!
I can’t believe I’ll be home in 3 hours. It’ll take some adjusting…I should be asleep right now if I were in Cape Town… so I’m starting to feel a bit tired.
Please be praying for my Grandpa and family, as he is in the hospital struggling to stay alive.
Thank you all again for everything you’ve done for my trip, including reading this blog! It means so much to have your support.
I’ll update a couple more times as I experience my “culture shock back to America.”

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Eastern Cape Day 7


April 3 2011 6PM
Journey to the Eastern Cape Day 7

Can you believe it’s already April 3rd??? I certainly can’t. I only have ONE MONTH left. I’m about 50/50 on how I feel about this. I’m still loving being here and enjoying every minute of it, but I’m also getting quite anxious to get home, see everyone, and be in my own comfortable space again.
Anyways, let me fill you in on the last few days’ happenings. I’m going to start with today and backtrack (mainly because I think it’s the only way I’m going to remember…it’s kinda all a blur).
I am currently at the Bulungula Lodge that is on the ocean in the Eastern Cape (this is as far as we’re going in the Eastern Cape). It’s this really awesome eco-friendly lodge where we use compost toilets and rocket showers (the water is warmed up with paraffin and lasts about 7 minutes). When we got here yesterday (after 6 hours in a VERY cramped van) we just hung out and ate dinner. We sat around the bon fine and when it got dark some people went and got their musical instruments. It was really sweet, we had a guitarist/singer, a few African drums, and a didgerydoo (spelling)? I even played the drums a little bit! It was one of the few times while being here that I’ve played music at all, and it made me miss my violin…
Today we got up and walked on the beach a bit. Then 5 of us Americans were led into the forest to learn what a traditional healer of the village uses when people get sick, get headaches, are “crazy” etc. Unfortunately, the healer couldn’t come because he had to heal somebody (funny how that works out) but we got lead around by another guy that knew quite a bit. It ended up being about a 4 hour walk, so I was exhausted. But when we got back we found out that our plans for tomorrow had to be moved to today…so we ate some lunch and headed out for a “women’s empowerment” outing. Basically, this consisted of us getting our faces painted with mud that helps block the sun, making mud bricks for houses (which…btw we had to dip our bare hands in cow poop… I threw up in my mouth a little bit…), carrying buckets of water on our heads, and carrying logs on our heads. This isn’t play…this is what the women of this village do every day. It was actually quite enjoyable.
As I mentioned before, yesterday was essentially traveling all day, so I’m going to jump to Friday. Friday we left our hostel to go to Addo Elephant National Park, which was a game reserve. We saw lots of animals, including elephants, lions, and buffalo (3 of Africa’s “Big Five”). It was cool, but we had to get up at 4:30 to get there for the “sunrise game drive” so we all slept all the way to our next hostel. Friday night’s hostel was pretty interesting, and many of our favorite stay so far. It had lots of cool little guest houses, and the couple that owned it had raised an impala and a zebra, both of which lived on the property. Some of the people even went on a walk with the zebra…not every day somebody gets to do that! They also had 5 or 6 dogs and 10 cats. It definitely had it’s own character.
Thursday we were at our least favorite hostel…. It was out in the middle of nowhere, it was raining, and we were the only ones there. And we got there earlier than expected, so we had A LOT of free time. Luckily, they had free internet so I was able to get on for a bit. But other than that, it was a lot of pool and card games.
It’s been a pretty incredible week. I have to think really hard to remember what I did each specific day, but I think that’s a good thing. We’re definitely having our issues with each other (some of us don’t know when to be quiet…), but that’s to be expected.
That’s about it. It’s time for me to go grab my book, sit out, read, and listen to the waves of the ocean! ;-)

Eastern Cape Day 3


March 30, 2011 5:10 PM
Journey to the Eastern Cape Day 3

Hello all. Currently, I am sitting in our room at the hostel enjoying some “alone time.”  It’s been a busy three days so far! Let me fill you in.

Monday we arrived at Cornerstone around 6:30 AM to begin our trip. We’re driving in a 13 passenger van…the 11 Americans, our “leader” Tami, the driver, and we were joined today by our mentor Kenneth who is coming because otherwise Asa would be the only male. Anyways, our driving time on Monday was about 6 hours ending at Oudtshoorn. We saw the Cango Caves where some of us (not including me) were brave enough to do the “adventure tour” climbing through cave holes as tall as a flashlight. No thanks. The rest of us wimps just did a standard tour that brought us inside the cave enough to make me clastrophobic and learn a little about them. That night we were stayed at the “Backpackers Paradise” hostel and played cards.

Tuesday I rode an ostrich. Seriously. This wasn’t something I expected to do while in South Africa, but it was pretty awesome! It was super short, like 10 seconds, but that was long enough. It was at an ostrich show farm in Oudsthoorn where they have all different kinds of ostriches and stuff. Did you know they even race these things? So after that little adventure we got in the bus for another 3 hours or so and (after waiting at a view point for a couple hours while our driver was sick) ended up in Buffalo Bay, which is near where I was with my host family two weeks ago. Our hostel wasn’t quite paradise, like the night before, but it was right on the beach. That’s enough of paradise for me. It was kind of..Oregon Beach-y, but still fun.

We didn’t travel far today, our hostel is less than an hour from last night’s. Our adventure today was bungy jumping and ziplining. I did the latter. But the 5 brave souls jumped off the highest bungy bridge in the world, one of them even did it twice. Krystle and I, trying to be at least a little brave, did a zip-lining tour over some waterfalls.  It was pretty cool too! Our hostel tonight is called Tubes N Axes…not really sure why…but alright. It’s really cool with hammocks all around and a very spacious, nice shower (hard to come by in these hostels).

I’m really enjoying it all so far. It’s nice because it’s much more relaxed than the other trips we have taken, and it’s all fun stuff instead of museum after museum (which is great, too…).  The group is an interesting one, which makes it all the more fun. We’ll see how I feel after spending 2 weeks with them all haha.

I can’t say enough how much I am blessed to be here. Who can say that in a span of four days they have seen a circus (that was Sunday, btw), gone in a cave, rode an ostrich, and zip-lined over waterfalls…all in South Africa?! Yup, I’m a lucky girl.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Taran!!!


March 21, 2011 7:30 PM
Yesterday, I was supposed to ride an elephant. But I didn’t. I was all stoked, ready to go ride this thing, and then it turns out it was over 50 bucks for SEVEN MINUTES on the elephant. As cool as it would have been to say I had ridden an elephant, I didn’t think it was worth the money. But I saw the elephant, so that’s cool!
This was just one aspect to the weekend away with the host family. Krystle and I were graciously invited to join our family in Plettenburg Bay for a couple days. We stayed in a basic, but very nice cabin with free-roaming animals all around. There were primarily deer, and one freaking annoying pig. They were all tame, because they all lived on the property so they were used to the people. But this dang pig would actually come INTO your cabin if you accidentally left the door open. He bit. He peed. He was annoying. If there was any reason to be excited to leave that place, it was the pig.
But everything else was fun. We spent Saturday going to a Saturday market, checking out the beach, and taking a little hike to a suspended bridge that had a pretty awesome view. Sunday we tried to ride elephants, but then joined the family to see monkeys in Monkeyland, which is a place where monkeys that were humanized either as home pets, in labs, or in the circus could go to become wild and dehumanized again. It was about an hour tour, so that was cool. Right next door to that was Birds of Eden, where I saw FLAMINGOS! I had never seen them before, so that was pretty sweet.
We played lots of the card game “golf” and just really enjoyed being with each other.
I’m so in paper-writing mode right now that I keep thinking I have to check my word count as I’m writing this. Silly me!
I can’t believe how fast time is going. It’s already almost April, and this is my last week of college. Then it’s SUMMER BREAK!!!! No homework for 5 MONTHS!!!! Hahahaha.
This is probably my last post for quite a while. I can guarantee you this week will not consist of much to write about (unless you want to read my essays I’ll be writing all week). Then next Monday the Americans head off to the Eastern Cape for 12ish days, then we go to a township for a week. So basically, I don’t know if and when I’ll have internet access again. HOW WILL I SURVIVE!???
Thank you all, again, for your continuing support and prayers. When we were taking our hike this weekend, there was this one absolutely gorgeous view, and I just said, “Krystle, we’re in AFRICA.” It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the school work here that I forget where I am and how lucky I am to be here. No matter how hard it is sometimes, I know I’m here because God wants me to be, and I’m learning SO much about myself and the beautiful world God has created.

Monday, March 14, 2011

So, what's so different?


March 13, 2011 1:20 PM
I’ve been asked what’s different in SA compared to home. This is my effort to express this to you. I’m mainly going to focus on the funny stuff. But maybe I’ll add some serious stuff too. Maybe. Let’s see how this goes.
1) When you say you’re going to catch a taxi, it is not a yellow car with you and a friend inside. Instead, it’s a van jam-packed full of people. As you walk down the street, taxis constantly go by whistling to get your attention to catch a ride. It’s super cheap (less than a dollar) and they’re EVERYWHERE. But literally, in a 8-person van, there may be more like 12 or 13 passengers. One time I was in the very back corner, as far away from the door as possible, with 4 others sitting next to me. My mother would have died.
2) Muslims are everywhere. I’m not saying this to be discriminatory; I’m just stating the facts. There’s a mosque right down the street from us (in the neighborhood) and I just heard them singing… we hear this 2-3 times a day. Also, when we go running at the sports complex, there are usually numerous Muslims running as well, fully dressed in their gowns (I don’t know what they’re called) and with tennis shoes on. I do realize that they are fully human and they have the same desires that we do, and I respect this. But sometimes it just makes you giggle when you see them in tennis shoes, or riding a motorcycle, while being fully dressed in their Muslim attire.
3) There’s this one kind of bird here that is flippin’ annoying. I don’t know what it looks like or what it’s called, but it makes this damn sound that is impossible to block out. When I first got here I thought it was a monkey, no joke. I’ve gotten used to sleeping with my headphones in, so I don’t notice it as much, but holy moly it’s annoying.
4) Our neighborhood has this incredibly annoying circumstance regarding dogs. One dog barks, right? No, it is impossible for ONE dog to bark. Once that dog barks, the entire neighborhood’s dog population is barking. Sometimes at 4AM. Notsofunny.
5) There are people at every stop light begging, and they come right up to your window to peer in to see if you have spare change laying around. They make you feel incredibly guilty. One day, we were riding home with Charlene, who was drinking a milkshake at the time, and a beggar woman came up and tried to guilt-trip Charlene into giving her some of her drink. And when it didn’t work the first attempt, she came back and asked again. There are also some that sell the most random things, like swim floaties and blankets, on the streets. I guess anything to get some money, right? But I have yet to see anyone buy any of it… but a lot of people try to sell it!
6) Stop lights are called robots. Cookies are called biscuits. Sweaters are called jerseys. Trucks are called buckeyes. The trunk of a car is called the boot. Tennis shoes are called tekkies.
7) It is nearly impossible to find bags of chocolate chips at the grocery store.
8) The postal system sucks.
9) There are nearly no two-story houses. Some houses look like one house with two doors (like a duplex) but the two halves will be painted two different colors.
10) People drink so much sugary drinks instead of water. Krystle and I actually get made fun of for drinking straight tap water.
11) Most coffee is instant coffee. Filtered coffee is specified in the restaurants because it’s not a common find. And it is incredibly rare to find a coffee shop that offers flavorings.
12) Fast food places are much cheaper. And concession stands at the stadium as well as the mall and airport (where food prices are way more expensive at home) are actually quite reasonable, even though it is more expensive than the normal places. I got an ice cream at the rugby stadium for about 2 dollars…bet you couldn’t find one that cheap in a stadium at home, eh?
13) Techno, or what they call House music here, is bumpin’ everywhere. Especially in the taxis. It’s pretty funny actually. And a lot more adults listen to the popular hip-hop stuff on the radio.

I’m sure there’s a lot of other stuff that just isn’t coming to mind right now. Maybe I’ll update this over time. Just thought ya’ll would enjoy this J

Peace out, yo.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Happy Birthday Keith!!!


March 10, 2011 7 PM
I don’t even know where to begin. It’s obviously been busy, which is why it’s been 10 days since I last wrote. So I think the real question is, what do you want to know? I’m not psychic, but I’ll try my hardest to tell you what you want to hear. :P
To start off, let me point out that I have less time until I come home than I do the time that I’ve been here. I don’t know if that makes sense, but I’m over half way through my time. Man oh man, it’s flying by. The other day I was taking a break from writing an essay and decided to go back and read some of my first blog entries. The one written on the 13th of January, about me smoking out the house… that hit me. It does NOT feel like it’s been two months since that happened, and it is also weird to think that at that point I had only been here for 9 days. I’m pretty sure I felt like I had been here a month at that point. But now it’s been two months, and I still feel like I’ve only been here a month. Funny how that works.
The weekdays haven’t been anything exciting. Krystle and I are usually at college (you have to say college or uni here, if you say school they think you’re still in high school) until around 4 each day, and then come home and either take a nap, go for a run (or walk usually for me haha), or do more homework. When the family comes home, we chit-chat with them, and I have started to help Lavona make dinner quite regularly. It brings me back to my memories with my mom and helps me feel a little bit more at home. Overall, I really have started to become more comfortable and I really am starting to feel like this house is my…well...3rd home.
Last weekend was a really nice combination of relaxing and getting out to do stuff. A friend from college, Andrew, just moved into a different flat, so he had a house-warming party Friday night. Saturday we spent most of the day at home and then went to a rugby game with the family. It was probably the hottest day since we’ve been here. We figure it got close to 36 degrees Celsius…you can tell me what that is in Fahrenheit. But we were sitting in the sun at the stadium, so it was pretty unbearable for the first half. Luckily, the sun started to go down and we ended in the shade.
Sunday was spent with Krystle and a couple of our friends Kyle and Luke. We went to the waterfront for a little while, went to a food bazaar place for lunch, and then went to a concert at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. It was this two-man band called Goldfish, and they’re pretty popular in South Africa. The insane crowd at the concert proved them popular. It was cool, even though there was a big tree blocking our view from the stage. We just went down to the front for a little bit to see it, and just hung out and talked the rest of the time.
I’ve been on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for the past couple weeks, but hopefully it will ease up soon. I have been excited and incredibly happy, and then incredibly homesick and sad (sometimes within 10 minutes of each other). I’m a girl…is that enough of an excuse?
Anyways, I suppose a lot more has happened, but my mind is on papers and school (or sorry…college) ending in just a couple more weeks. The weeks are becoming blended together with each day going by faster and faster.
It’s Keith’s birthday today (or it will be when I post this)! And Mom’s was last week! Happy Birthday to you!!!!!
Lots of love.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It's March!!!


March 1, 2011 3:00 PM




I’m actually writing a blog while at school!!!! So this is actually a up-to-the-minute update! You should feel so honored! ;)
Classes weren’t super exciting last week, so I’m just going to just ahead to the weekend. After classes were done on Thursday, us Americans boarded a plane to Johannesburg. We got there around 6 and went straight to our hostel for the night.
Friday we got up to begin our first day being the ultimate tourists. We started the day by going to the township of Soweto. Have you heard of the Soweto uprising? It’s an incredible story that played a big part in the apartheid… maybe look it up sometime! We went to a church there called Regina Mundi. It was a church that the people of Soweto went to as a safe haven from the riots and such, but it got attacked by the police one time. There were like 5000 people inside, and there are still bullet holes around the church to show the damage done.
Next up was the Hector Pieterson Memorial. Hector was a thirteen year old boy; the first to be shot and killed in the Soweto uprising. It was a very interesting museum.
We went from there to Nelson and Winnie Mandela’s house, which has recently been turned into a museum. This street also used to host Desmond Tutu; it is the only street to have two Nobel Peace Prize winners live on it.
After lunch we went to Constitution Hill, which is where the major courthouse is, along with a couple of the prisons used during the apartheid. The prisons are now museums, which we were guided through.
Needless to say, it was a busy day.
Saturday was just about as busy. We met up with a bishop in the Alexander township, where we discussed some stuff for about 3 hours. I’m gonna be honest, I don’t really know what they were talking about. It was hot, and there were a bunch of adorable little children following us around (just like at the other township we went to in January). I did pick up on a little, but I wasn’t in the mindset to talk for that long.
Then we went to the Voortrekker Memorial, which is in memory of the Anglo-Boer war. It had some pretty incredible artwork, and an amazing view from the top of the building.
Then we went to the Lion Park! We took a truck tour around the park and got to see some INSANELY large lions. Then we got to pet some lion cubs! Then we got to feed a giraffe! I squealed really loud cause its tongue was really rough and gross! It was fun!
I was asleep that night by like 10. It was a very exhausting day. We had a lovely surprise at about 4 AM with drunken men outside our window throwing condom balloons into our window. Funny? Not so much.
Sunday we got up to do a little devotional with our instructor, Glenn, and then headed off to the Apartheid Museum. This place is crazy. We were there for about 3 hours, and it was hardly enough time to get through it. It really helped me see the apartheid in the proper sequence. We had learned so much about it, but to me, it was still really broken up and confusing. I bought a book since pictures weren’t allowed inside. Let me know if you want to see it when I get back!
Last night we went to our friend, Robin’s, house for dinner. The community there was like nothing I had experienced before. When we arrived, we sat down our bags and went to meet his neighbors. Who does that? But it was really cool, and the food was good.
Today I’ve just been doing homework and chattin with Taran. Tuesdays are my homework/skype days. It’s pretty great.
Much love to you all. I hope the weather there isn’t getting to you too much! It’s a woppin 95 degrees here today. Only 70 degrees warmer than Spokane! J