Days 5-8

Day 5 (Thursday): We woke up early and went on a tour around Cape Town with the Sun Valley 5th graders. It was a fun and very relaxed morning. We got to see lots of different places in Cape Town, we visited a park, a beach, and a little waterside town. Getting to know the 5th graders was very fun; they are all very happy and upbeat children. It reminded me of what it was like to be that small wishing I could be older. When we finished with the tour we said goodbye to our new friends and went to another beach to learn how to body board! It was really fun, not everyone wanted to do it but five of us did and it was a blast. We had to have wetsuits because the water gets so cold this time of year but we couldn’t feel it at all. Learning to body board was incredibly difficult, but some of the teachers from Sun Valley had come and were helping to teach us. They were fantastic. After surfing we headed back to the B & B and to get ready for dinner. We went to a nice little local restaurant and had burgers, while listening to live music, which was really good I might add.

Day 6 (Friday):  Today was a day that Kwesi had been waiting for all trip. We went to Robben Island where Mandela and other political threats were held in prison during Apartheid. Before we went though, we hung around the waterfront and got to try lots of different meats like impala, ostrich, and zebra. They were all delicious and tasted like like different types of chicken. When we finished our lunch we boarded the boat to Robben Island.

Once on Robben Island, we had a tour on a bus given by a very entertaining guide who was able to keep the mood light despite the heaviness of what we were looking at.  After the bus tour we were given another tour of the actual prison by someone who had been imprisoned their himself. Because this tour was given by a previous prisoner it made it very real, and felt authentic, like history itself was standing in front of us. On the way back from the Island a few of us decided to stand on the front of the boat and watch as we approached Capetown, that is until we got splashed by huge waves. For dinner we went to Sun Valley where they were having a cookout and a camp out for their elementary students. We got to play soccer, and hang out with our little 5th graders again, it was really fun and a nice way to end a somewhat serious day.

Day 7 (Saturday): We left the bed and breakfast to move into our second location, the team house. It’s a beautiful building along the beach with very nice rooms and delicious food. It would fall somewhere between a hotel and a hostel. After unpacking we went out to a tourist market which had really great prices and got some more souvenir shopping in. When we finished and got back to the house had dinner and went for a nice sunset walk on the beach to end the day. The sunset was gorgeous and the beach was full of people walking their dogs.

Day 8 (Sunday): today was our last day of touristy type things before we start service, the real reason we’re here! We started our day of at Kristenbosch Botanical Gardens walking around, it was a beautiful sight and there was so much to see. Then we had lunch at a restaurant in the gardens called Moyo. Moyo had lots of delicious food, which was perfect because they had a all-you-can-eat buffet. They also had really cool singers who sang traditional African music to each individual table. Once lunch was finished we headed to our final destination which was Table Mountain. We rode up to the top in a cable car and saw amazing views of Cape Town from above, the view even stretched as far as Robben Island  on one side of the mountain there was a cloud spilling over onto us as we walked around ruining our view but giving us a nice little mist. It was really cool. When we finished at Table Mountain we went back to the house for dinner and a relaxing evening. The kids also took a 10 minute walk to a local pizza restaurant to check out some more local food and have a late night snack to end the night.

~Caroline

Reflecting 

The effects of the apartheid government system are still very much present in the everyday experience of South Africa. Though the government and citizens take steps to change it and have made lots of progress in the last 20 years, it is very hard to change systematic oppression quickly, because it affects the mindset of those living through it so much.

One thing I have noticed and greatly appreciate here is the fact that most of the people we have talked to and interacted with do not shy away from the apartheid. They accept it as a part of their history and acknowledge the progress they have made as well as how much farther they have to go. I find this refreshing because I feel like back home in the States we don’t acknowledge our history as openly as we should.

When we walked around and took tours of the different townships, it made me rethink a lot about how I view myself and how I view those around me. As well as how I view myself and others in the world. I learned that dreams are what carry you through life, and without them you get into trouble and make mistakes. Walking through and seeing people living in so much poverty made me extremely sad, and somewhat guilty because I’ve only ever known a life of privilege. But as I saw people who had accepted their situation as their present not their future and were happy, heard stories of those who had dreams and aspirations, and because of this were doing well, and learned how close these communities can actually be, I began to realize that feeling guilty or sad isn’t going to change anything. They have to accept their present situation and so do I.

Seeing all this poverty has completely opened my eyes and I saw a different part of the world, which is helping me to see a different part of humanity and myself. I’m beginning to learn many incredible things about myself and those I’m visiting and I couldn’t be more grateful for the experience so far.  South Africa is an amazing country for many reasons, one of them being the fact that poverty and wealth live side by side literally, to see this in person is incredible. You can’t understand it until you are here.

~Caroline

South Africa Days 1 – 4

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while I’ve been busy and tired!

Day 1 (Sunday): After we landed and made it through customs two men from the team house which we would be staying at later in the trip picked us up and took us to the bed and breakfast we would be staying at for the first week. We checked in and relaxed. They family who owns the bed and breakfast then made us a delicious barbecue dinner, afterwards we hung around and played with their children. When it got dark we all went for a walk to see the surrounding neighborhood. It was beautiful, there were amazing houses and mountain views everywhere, we all took lots and lots of photos. After the walk the adults went to bed and all of us kids hung out together and talked about how cool it was to be in South Africa till the early hours of the morning.

Day 2 (Monday):  We had a somewhat early morning but delicious breakfast and went off to Sun Valley School who is graciously hosting us and helping us on our trip. We met with Gavin Keller who is the “CEO” of the school and a hilariously entertaining guy. He told us all about the school and what they are trying to do by approaching education in a completely different way, focusing on how the brain functions. For example, they have all their students walk around barefoot until grade 9 because “you learn through your feet”. It was all very interesting and made us eager to get started with our tours. The tours were led by sixth graders who were incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic towards us.  After school we went to the water front and took a boat out to see the cape from the water. It was breathtaking!! When the boat ride was over we walked around and looked at all the different shops they had, and walked around the mall a little bit. When we finished touring the shops we went to a somewhat American dinner at a popular restaurant called Spur and had burgers. Then we returned home, and again the adults went to bed and the kids stayed up to talk about everything we had seen and done.

Day 3(Tuesday): Another early morning with a delicious breakfast. After eating, we all got in our van and headed over to Living Hope where we would have orientation for our service, we were all very excited about this because we felt this was the true reason we had come on the trip. This experience was incredible and the only way to give it justice would be to do it yourself, but I’ll try to give you a taste of our experience.

The orientation started with an explanation of what Living Hope is and why it started. Living hope is a foundation that helps those who live in the Townships (the equivalent of slums or projects, created by the government during the apartheid) of Cape Town. It was started when AIDS broke out and there was lots of stigma around the disease. Their goals are to provide education on a range of different things like AIDS and teenage pregnancy, as well as provide support to families who need counseling, struggle with addiction, or are teenage parents. They also have a hospice service for those who are dying of AIDS.

When the introduction was over we took a tour of three different townships they work in and met and talked with some of the people who live and work in these townships. For me and most people who went on this trip, it was out first experience with this kind of poverty and it was challenging to walk through and look at, but it was very powerful and taught us all a lot. After this we went back to Sun Valley and had lunch. When we finished lunch we got to go around to their different sports practices and help coach their primary school teams in sports like swimming and volleyball. We also helped with cricket and netball, but no one knew what they were doing so we mostly watched and talked about the culture of America and South Africa with the coaches. When the primary school practice was over the girls’ high school was having gym class and we played soccer with them. Then we went to the ocean front for a delicious seaside dinner and a taste of authentic South African cuisine, which is delicious! When dinner finished we went to a presentation on the teenage brain back at Sun Valley given by the one and only Gavin Keller. It was very interesting, and explained a lot about teenagers. Once we arrived at the bed and breakfast for the evening, we debriefed about the day and talked about what it was like to go from the Townships to the privileged side of South Africa. We had all had a very full day both in activity and emotionally, making our discussion very thoughtful and enlightening.

Day 4(Wednesday): After such a full day the day before we were able to sleep in. This was also a somewhat easy day because we went shopping at s local market where we bought souvenirs and made attempts at haggling with the vendors (some of us were much better at this than others). When the shopping was finished  we had a quick lunch at a buffet and walked to another market. This one was more aimed at locals so we left after a few minutes and went to a museum. When we finished at the second market we took a walk to a museum, after the museum we took a quick stop at the beach and then it was back to the bed and breakfast for dinner and an early night.    Caroline

30 hours 

30 hours is roughly the amount of time we took to go from Westtown to Cape Town. Our journey began when we left Westtown for the airport at 1:00 in the morning. The bus ride passed quickly because we were all sleeping soundly. Little did we know that would be the last little bit of solid sleep we would be getting until we landed in Cape Town just over a day later.

We got to the airport with about 3 hours to kill, but we needed all the time we could get because all of us are very bad at reading the signs and couldn’t find our check in location. We ended up wandering around a mostly empty airport for about 15 minutes before going back to where we started, which was ironically where we were supposed to be. Once we got our bags checked it was all pretty smooth sailing, and waiting. A few people tried to sleep in the terminal but most of us just wanted to wait till we were on the first flight to sleep.

The first flight was 6 hours to London and it couldn’t have been smoother, there was enough time to enjoy a movie and a nap. We even got to pick whatever seat we wanted on the plane because it was an empty flight. Everyone enjoyed it and had a nice time, some people even thought the food was delicious. When we landed in London we were all exhausted even though we had been able to sleep a few hours. Getting through security took up most of the time we had for the layover and by the time we made it to our terminal we were boarding.

This flight was 12 hours and none of us were worried about it because the first flight had been so smooth, but this one was terrible. No one could get comfortable enough to sleep and this food was not as good. It felt like it would never end. The hours went by so slowly and by the time we got off we were all sleep deprived and ready to go to bed, but we had made it successfully from Westtown to Cape Town in 30 hours.

-Caroline

The very beginning 

Going to the continent of Africa has always been extremely intriguing to me. The culture and history is so rich, I have always wanted to see it first hand. When I first to Westtown my freshman year I learned about the senior project that goes to Ghana and it immediately captured my interest. I decided I had to go.

When the time finally came for me to pick my project, I knew exactly what I would do, go to Ghana! Of course that would take some convincing of my parents because being the youngest my mom is somewhat apprehensive to let me travel to a foreign country without her. Once I finally convinced them though, I thought it would be smooth sailing and all I had to do was fill out the forms… I was completely wrong, over the summer Ebola started to spread like never before to countries surrounding Ghana, and everyone was scared that it would become a devastating and disastrous pandemic. Though it did become very deadly and technically became a pandemic it never made it into Ghana, but the school decided it was in our best interest to send the trip elsewhere.

We had the choice to go on another trip, or stay with this group and find another place we would like to visit. I decided I would stay, and we chose to take a trip to South Africa. This of course would require re-convincing of my parents because it was a new location, but they became comfortable with the idea fairly quickly.

So the day is finally here, and now I’m sitting in the Koomson’s apartment with the 10 other kids in my group waiting for a bus to take us to the airport at 1:00 in the morning so that we can make a flight that leaves at 7:30 AM. But it’s worth it because I know this is the beginning of a life changing experiencing.

-Caroline